Obama to Boost Tourism and Improve Visa Processing
On January 19, 2012, President Obama signed an executive order to improve visa and foreign visitor processing and travel promotion.
The announcement calls for an implementation plan, to be developed within 60 days of the date of order, to achieve the following:
- Increase nonimmigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% over the coming year;
- Ensure that 80% of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions;
- Increase efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals of Visa Waiver Program participants; and
- Expand reciprocal recognition programs for expedited travel, such as the Global Entry program.
The announcement establishes Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior. The Task Force is tasked with developing the National Travel and Tourism Strategy with recommendations for new policies and initiatives to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States with the goal of increasing the United States market share of worldwide travel, including obtaining a greater share of long-haul travel from Brazil, China, and India.
The goal of the announcement is to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination, as part of a comprehensive effort to spur job creation. The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes – such as China, Brazil, and India – is projected to grow by 135%, 274%, and 50% respectively by 2016 when compared to 2010, according to the White House. Nationals from these three countries contributed approximately $15 billion dollars and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010. In addition, Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than $6,000 and $5,000 respectively each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce. The Department of State has made tremendous progress in processing non-immigrant visas from these key markets, allowing them to issue more than 7.5 million visas in the last fiscal year, a 17% increase from the previous fiscal year. In the 2011 fiscal year, consular officers adjudicated more than a million visa applications in China and more than 800,000 in Brazil, representing 34 % growth in China and 42% growth in Brazil. Improving visa processing capacity for China and Brazil is particularly important because of this growth, the White House says.
The U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment, representing 2.7% of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010 – with international travel to the United States supporting 1.2 million jobs alone, according to the White House. The travel and tourism industry projects that more than a million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market.
“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try,” said President Obama.
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