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‘Smarter Visa’ Policy Push Includes Federal Bills and Wednesday Webinar

October 5, 2011

New legislation introduced by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) is aimed at correcting problems with the U.S. visa process. The goal of the bill, "Welcoming Business Travelers and Tourists to America Act of 2011," is "to address inefficiencies in the visa processing system that discourage overseas business and leisure travel to the United States." See the full text of the bill here.

It’s a goal shared by our association, said Steve Richer, NTA public affairs advocate. "NTA has been pushing for reform since 2008," Richer said. "By streamlining the application process, this country can increase visitation from the key growth markets of China, Brazil and India."

Proponents of change point to the United States’ diminished share of long-haul international travel as a lost opportunity worth up to US$600 billion. Heck’s bill suggests that by recapturing that portion of the long-haul market (17 percent) in 2015 and sustaining it through 2020, the United States can "attract 98 million more visitors, create 1.3 million additional jobs and generate $859 billion in United States economic output by 2020."

A second bill (actually two corresponding bills) co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is aimed at modifying the requirements of the visa waiver program, which would allow visa-free travel for citizens of Poland and other countries. Details of the bill are here, and an appeal from the Polish American Congress is here.

And today, Sens. Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Begich (D-Ark.) and Blunt (R-Mo.) co-sponsored the "International Tourism Facilitation Act," according to Richer, who said it’s similar, but not identical, to the bill introduced by Rep. Heck.

To learn more about the visa problem and what you can do to help advance a solution, tune in tomorrow to "Enact Smarter Visa Policy Now," a free Webinar from the U.S. Travel Association. The hourlong Webinar is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, Oct 5. Click here to register.

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