Welcoming International Visitors
THE ROAD TO A SMARTER VISA POLICY
Increasing travel to the United States is a proven and effective form of economic stimulus – supporting communities, injecting billions into the U.S. economy and creating millions of good American jobs. In 2013, the U.S. received 69.8 million international arrivals whose spending totaled nearly $181 billion. Spending by our overseas visitors directly supported 1.2 million American jobs with wages totaling $29.5 billion.
Since recovery from the Great Recession began, the travel industry has been adding jobs at a rate 19 percent faster than the rest of the economy. While it is clear that travel is helping to drive the U.S. economic recovery, the benefits could be far greater. The nation’s share of global international arrivals has actually fallen from 7.5 percent in 2000 to just 6.4 percent in 2013, despite a 40 percent growth in overall global travel. While global international travel boomed over the last decade, America failed to keep pace. By streamlining our entry system and reforming our visa process, we can continue to welcome more international visitors each year.
The JOLT Act (H.R. 1354): To attract 100 million international visitors to the United Sates by 2021, as President Obama proposed, we must provide potential visitors a secure and efficient U.S. visa system. The Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act reforms our current visa and entry process to make the U.S. more attractive to potential overseas visitors.
The JOLT Act, which now has more than 160 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, will make important reforms to U.S. visa policies such as:
· Authorize a pilot program for fee-based, expedited interviews at a limited number of consular posts;
· Require the State Department to publish information on times of low demand for visa interviews to encourage visitors to apply during these periods; and
· Establish a goal of interviewing 90 percent of applicants within 10 business days for all nonimmigrant visas worldwide, with recognition of the need to concurrently maintain U.S. security and address resource allocation.
Visa Waiver Program: The JOLT Act will also expand visa-free travel to the U.S. by reforming the criteria for countries to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows business and leisure travelers from partner countries to temporarily visit the U.S. without obtaining a visa.
The JOLT Act would allow travelers from countries closely allied to the United States, including Poland, Israel, and Brazil, to enjoy the same visa-free entry that travelers from 38 other countries currently enjoy.
Simply expanding the Visa Waiver Program – could, if extended to strong candidates such as Brazil, Poland, Israel, Croatia and other select countries: Increase annual visitation by more than 1 million additional visitors, add more than $10 billion to the U.S. economy, and support nearly 60,000 additional American jobs.
Click here to learn more about the JOLT Act.
PROMOTING TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES: International travel declined substantially in America after September 11, 2001. If we had simply kept pace with global travel trends, 68 million more overseas travelers would have visited the United States in the past decade – supporting an estimated 441,000 jobs here at home. In order to resolve this issue, Congress enacted the Travel Promotion Act in 2010 to create Brand USA, a non-profit public-private partnership working to expand the U.S.’ share of the global travel market. It is the first nationally coordinated program responsible for leading a global marketing strategy for the U.S.Half of Brand USA’s budget (up to $100 million) is funded by the private sector, with a match provided by a $10 fee assessed on visa-free international travelers screened through Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Brand USA uses digital, mobile, and social media, billboards, television ads, entertainment programming, trade shows and educational campaigns in its travel promotion strategy. It is managed by a board of industry experts appointed by the Secretary of Commerce.
Brand USA helps attract billions in spending and economic stimulus and creates tens of thousands of new jobs here at home. In fact, Brand USA has shown a massive return on investment. For fiscal year 2013, Brand USA attracted 1.1 million additional international travelers who supported over 53 thousand new American jobs. For every $1 spent by Brand USA on promoting the U.S., $47 dollars were spent by added overseas visitors. International travel is one of the best levers for creating good American jobs, growing exports and driving economic growth. The average visitor to America spends $4,500 per trip on U.S. goods and services in communities across the country. With millions of new global citizens joining the middle class and beginning to travel abroad, Brand USA seeks to attract these visitors and their spending.
The Travel Promotion Act will require reauthorization this year to ensure Brand USA can maintain its economic impact and effectiveness. Tell your lawmakers to support the important work Brand USA is doing to boost the U.S. economy.
A MORE EFFICIENT ENTRY PROCESS
The entry process at America’s busiest airports needs an upgrade. America’s ability to capture a greater share of the global travel market depends on our ability to process visitors securely and efficiently through air, land and sea ports of entry.
A shortage of inspection agents for processing international travelers creates excessive processing delays at our highest volume international airports, with some travelers waiting up to three hours to move through United States inspections.
The U.S. can significantly reduce wait times at our ports of entry by establishing standards and target wait times for processing international travelers, improving customer service, and expanding use of trusted traveler programs like Global Entry (currently limited to South Korea, the Netherlands, Mexico and Canada) for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The JOLT Act includes much needed reforms that would expand the Global Entry Program.