GBTA Urges EU and U.S. Cooperation on Continued Visa Waiver Reciprocity

On Thursday March 2nd, the European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution calling upon the European Commission to reintroduce a visa requirement for Americans traveling to Europe unless political issues over visa reciprocity between the regions are resolved in the next two months.

The issue centers on visa exemption reciprocity for all members of the European Union and has been on the EU political agenda since 2014 when Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania notified the U.S.’s failure to implement visa reciprocity to the European Commission. The United States declined to grant visa reciprocity for these five countries because they do not meet the criteria to be included in the Visa Waiver Program. Despite continued pressure to do so, the European Commission had not suspended visa-free travel for American citizens given the potential economic and administrative implications.

GBTA strongly urges government officials on both sides of the ocean to work together through this challenge and come to a resolution that does not put a halt to visa-free travel that currently exists. At a time when transatlantic cooperation and stepping up our common efforts in the fight against terrorism is more important than ever, the reintroduction of visa requirements could seriously damage the relationship between these two strategic partners.

The current waiver agreement encourages cooperation in the fight against potential attacks by allowing intelligence and information sharing of potential terror threats among the participating countries. It spurs job creation and economic growth, while remaining the gold standard of security and efficiency in balancing the need to protect travelers while facilitating global business travel. It is a vital tool for promoting international trade.

Additionally, the expense and cost to the EU will have a large negative impact. The suspension would require processing 10 million annual visa applications. Managing this would take serious efforts, increased staffing, new infrastructure and cost millions of euros to handle this increased demand. And if as expected the United States retaliates, EU citizens and companies would also face roughly €2.5 billion in costs as a result of the United States responding with its own suspension, ending visa-free travel for EU citizens to the United States – meaning roughly 8 million travelers would need to pay the $160 visa fee and related application costs.

A recent Oxford Economics study also revealed that ending visa reciprocity would lead to a 23 percent decline in travel revenue for the United States and Canada. The study also showed more than 200,000 total jobs could be at risk projecting 140,000 jobs could be lost in Europe and an additional 73,000 lost in the United States.

A suspension would create a lasting, negative impact on business travel, which accounted for an estimated $1.2 trillion dollars in global spending last year. The global economy already faces many uncertainties, and this move could deal a devastating blow to further economic growth.

GBTA, as always, will continue to press the importance of visa-free travel reciprocity between the EU and the United States and the message that together we are stronger, and will encourage our European and American leaders to search for common ground to avoid suspension of a vital international program.