Visa Waiver Program/Visa Application Process
The Issue: Facilitating international business travel to the U.S. allows companies to grow in global markets, expand their business opportunities, grow their work force, and compete effectively. Travel to and from the U.S. should be safe and efficient, with no unnecessary barriers that delay or discourage business travel. Visa reforms guarantee faster, simpler travel and increase the number of business travelers.
Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and State Department, residents of 37 countries can visit the U.S for up to 90-days without a visa. U.S. nationals have reciprocal rights with participating countries. To participate, countries must meet strict security standards, including the issuance of machine-readable passports with biometrics and participation in security-related data sharing agreements. Over 100 million VWP leisure and business travelers have visited the U.S. in the past six years. Last year, more than 18 million visitors traveled to the U.S. under the program, representing more than 44 percent of all foreign visitors and spending almost $70 billion to boost the U.S. economy. The VWP enables jobs creation at home and abroad, stimulates the economy and improves international relations. It is a huge success and strongly supported by the business travel industry.
In addition to adding qualified VWP nations, improvements to the visa application process in non visa waiver nations are critical - from reducing wait times to simplifying the interview process to adding additional consular. This increases overall travel to the U.S. and all the related benefits to business travel buyers and suppliers. For example, in 2011 and 2012, increased consular office staffing in China decreased the average wait time for a visa interview appointment to less than one week. Overall visa processing time has been reduced significantly. Similar process/staffing improvements are underway in Brazil, where officials processed over 800,000 visa applications last year, and in India.
GBTA Position: Increasing business travel to and from the U.S. will drive continued economic recovery and jobs growth. GBTA fully supports the expansion of the VWP and improvements to the visa application process, including increased funding in the proposed 2013 DHS and State Department budgets to ensure adequate program staffing and management. Specifically, GBTA supports expanding the VWP program by replacing the current eligibility criteria with a requirement for visa overstay and visa refusal rates under three percent, unless the DHS waives the refusal rate up to ten percent (provided in Sec. 562 of 2013 DHS Appropriations Act and in separate bills pending in the House and Senate). This change in criteria is consistent with VWP security goals and may permit greater participation. GBTA also supports more efficiencies in the visa application process. GBTA opposes any effort to decrease visa process improvements as part of a deficit reduction package.
U.S. Department of State
National Travel and Tourism Policy