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Bipartisan Senate Immigration Bill Will Bring Economic Benefits of Travel to Communities Across America

June 27, 2013 Association No Comments Email Email

The U.S. Travel Association today urged U.S. senators to approve S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. As part of an historic opportunity to enact meaningful immigration reform, the legislation includes significant measures to improve the visa process and facilitation of air travelers coming to the United States.

“The Senate immigration bill will enhance U.S. security while encouraging more travel to and within the United States,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We urge the Senate to approve this historic legislation that will help deliver the economic benefits of travel – more jobs, more growth and more tax revenue – to communities nationwide.”

Provisions authored by Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and recently added to the Senate immigration bill require the SecretaryEGT_Artical Banner A 250x250 of Homeland Security to reduce average primary processing wait times at high-volume international airports and land entry checkpoints by 50 percent by the end of fiscal year 2014. The bill establishes the goal of screening all air passengers being processed at high-volume international airports within 30 minutes under normal operating circumstances by the end of fiscal year 2016. The legislation also requires U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to examine the use of non-law enforcement personnel for administrative duties to reduce agency costs and free up CBP officer time for passenger processing. The bill further requires a report on how the Department of Homeland Security intends to implement a biometric entry and exit system for the 10 highest-volume airports.

“Travel adds $2.0 trillion per year to the U.S. economy and is America’s No. 1 services export,” said Dow. “By encouraging more travel, the Senate immigration bill will provide a welcome shot in the arm to America’s economic recovery.”

The legislation further includes important travel-facilitation provisions previously agreed to by the Senate Judiciary Committee. U.S. Travel also commends Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) for their leadership and for inclusion of the following pro-travel provisions:

  • Reforms to the highly successful Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that will allow additional countries like Brazil and Poland to apply for admission, enhancing U.S. security while welcoming more visitors to the U.S.;
  • Adoption of a more accurate method of calculating visa overstay rates;
  • Adoption of measures to encourage more travel from Canada;
  • Expansion of the tested and proven Global Entry Program that allows preapproved, low-risk international travelers the ability to utilize an expedited clearance process upon entry into the U.S. Expediting entry for “trusted travelers” enables U.S. CBP personnel to focus inspection resources on unknown or higher risk travelers;
  • Expedited visa reviews for travelers who wish to visit the U.S. on short notice;
  • A requirement to reduce visa wait times to facilitate more and easier travel for international visitors;
  • A pilot program to test the use of secure videoconferencing to conduct visa interviews, which would provide increased access to a U.S. visa for potential travelers;
  • Authorization to make Hong Kong eligible to apply for membership into the VWP, putting the U.S. one step closer toward preferred access to the valuable Hong Kong travel market;
  • Reauthorization of the Travel Promotion Act, the non-profit private-public partnership promoting increased international travel to the U.S.; and
  • Authorization and funding to hire 3,500 new officers to support CBP, positions that will help improve the entry process for international visitors to the U.S.

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