Visa Vote Could Open U.S. to More International Visitors
November 16, 2011
The United States Congress is currently considering seven different bills aimed at improving the burdensome visa process that currently drives millions of overseas travelers to visit other countries. Of immediate concern to NTA members, though, is a "minibus" bill on the State Department budget, said Steve Richer, the association’s public affairs advocate. (A minibus bill asks for a chunk of the federal budget rather than trying to fund everything through an "omnibus" spending package.)
"This State Department Foreign Operations bill will provide funds for more consular officers and goals for less waiting time for visa interviews," Richer said. "This is especially important for high-demand countries that have had long waits for visa interviews, such as China, Brazil and India."
Richer urges NTA members to contact their senators to support Senate Bill 1601, the minibus bill. The Senate will debate the bill this week through the end of November. If it is approved by the Senate, the House Appropriations Committee will need to consider adopting the Senate’s visa reform provisions.
As a member of the Discover America Partnership, NTA has been working with a number of travel sector partners under the leadership of the U.S. Travel Association to improve the ease of access, timeliness, and procedures to obtain U.S. visas around the world. Along with more consular officers, the bills under consideration also support new criteria for visa waiver country eligibility, extension of existing visas without a new interview, and easier access to interviews, including video interviews.