Travel Industry Hails Senate Effort to Improve Visa Processing For Foreign Visitors

Visa Interview Videoconference Pilot in Pending Senate Bill Will Help United States to Welcome More Visitors, Create Travel Jobs

Washington, DC – The U.S. Travel Association today praised Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for her tireless efforts and hailed the inclusion of a provision permitting the testing of secure visa videoconferencing for aspiring foreign visitors in the state and foreign operations appropriations bill.

“The deployment of videoconference capability for overseas travelers will go a long way in helping to achieve the President’s ambitious goal of doubling exports under his National Export Initiative,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Conducting tourist visa interviews via secure, remote videoconferencing technology is a practical solution to offset insufficient access to U.S. consulates. With the right mechanisms in place, our country stands to welcome millions of additional visitors each year, greatly benefitting both our economy and American jobs.”

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) were also critical to passage of the provision.

The average overseas visitor to the United States spends more than $4,000 when they visit. With both videoconferencing technology and strategically assigned consular officers, the U.S. could more efficiently process visitors and advance the Administration’s goal to double exports within five years. By doubling arrivals from just three key emerging travel markets – Brazil, China and India – the United States stands to gain $24 billion in direct export revenues that would support more than 200,000 jobs related to international travel and tourism, according to U.S. Travel Association projections.

In geographically large countries such as India, China and Brazil, a lack of access to U.S. consular offices has meant that entire tour groups or families must travel hundreds of miles to the nearest U.S. consulate just to apply for a visa. For example:
Although China has 450 cities with more than one-half million people, only five cities have a U.S. consulate that offers tour group visa interviews.
In Brazil and India – with a total land area equal to or greater than the United States – there are only four consulates in the entire country. Currently a businessperson in Manaus, Brazil, a city with non-stop daily air service to the U.S., has to travel more than 1,300 miles for the required personal visa interview at the nearest consulate.

Dow noted that America’s travel community will promote final enactment of this important measure as the bill moves to the Senate floor for consideration and encourages the House Appropriations Committee to include similar language in their companion appropriations bill. This concept was also formally endorsed this year by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in legislation provisions contained in each chamber’s version of the State Department Authorization bill.

Contact:
Cathy Keefe 202-408-2183
The U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the $704 billion travel industry. U.S. Travel’s mission is to promote and facilitate increased travel to and within the United States. U.S. Travel is proud to be a partner in travel with American Express. For more information, visit
http://www.ustravel.org/.