US travel association pushes Congress to ease visitor visa restrictions

Sat, 2012-01-14 12:26 PM
The US Travel Association is pushing Congress to pass new legislation to ease US visitor visa restrictions in the hope that tourism to the US will increase. International visitors are expected to spend more than $152 billion in the year 2012, but tourists could offer an even larger boost to the US economy if the current bill before Congress passes so that it is easier to obtain visitor visas.

The bill is designed to stimulate international tourism to the US; Supporters believe it will help the US economy and create more jobs. The proposed overhaul of the US visa system has been endorsed by the National Retail Federation, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

It has been more than a decade since the US brought in tougher travel visa requirements following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Foreign visitors say that getting a visitor visa remains a daunting task. Currently, there are at least five bills waiting for passage in the US Senate and House that would make it easier for foreigners to obtain tourist visas.

Tourism leaders claim the extremely long waiting periods before being allowed to enter the US is discouraging international visitors resulting in a smaller US tourism sector than would otherwise be the case and fewer US jobs. They also said that the decline in foreign visitors during the past decade was costing American businesses and workers US$859 billion in untapped revenue and at least 500,000 potential jobs at a time when the economy needs both.

Geoff Freeman, CEO of the US Travel Association said, "Every day a person is waiting for that interview is a day a person cannot be here supporting the American economy."

It is important to note that not all visitors to the US need to apply for a visa as nationals of many Countries are eligible to come under the visa waiver scheme by applying online under ESTA. The following is a list of countries that participate in the visa waiver program:
AndorraHungaryNew Zealand
AustraliaIcelandNorway
AustriaIrelandPortugal
BelgiumItalySan Marino
BruneiJapanSingapore
Czech RepublicLatviaSlovakia
DenmarkLiechtensteinSlovenia
EstoniaLithuaniaSouth Korea
FinlandLuxembourgSpain
FranceMaltaSweden
GermanyMonacoSwitzerland
Greecethe NetherlandsUnited Kingdom

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