The California Chamber Commerce has joined the Discover America Partnership (DAP), a diverse coalition of industries and associations whose work depends on safe and efficient inbound international travel. The DAP is a lobbying and grassroots campaign to advance visa and entry reforms to enable the United States to regain its historic share of the booming world travel market.
DAP members reflect a broad range of industries that share the need for efficient overseas travel to the United States–whether the travel is to negotiate business deals, host global conferences and trade shows, or welcome international tourists. In 2012, international travel to the U.S. accounted for $129 billion in direct spending, supporting 1.1 million jobs. There is enormous potential for growth, but only if the nation takes practical steps to more efficiently and securely welcome millions of new visitors.
According to the DAP, the potential benefits are hard to exaggerate. Month after month, economic projections from the U.S. Commerce and Labor departments underscore how international visitation to the United States is helping lead the nation’s economic recovery. Travel exports, already the top U.S. services export, are rising at a faster rate than any other sector of the economy—generating tens of thousands of U.S. jobs that can’t be outsourced overseas.
To nurture local opportunity from Asia to South America, CalChamber seeks an efficient, reliable U.S. visa and entry process – and will now work with the DAP on the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act and other key priorities to facilitate business and leisure travel to the United States.
The DAP agenda includes reducing visa interview wait times and testing visa videoconference technology; streamlining the Customs and Border Protection entry process; expanding the Visa Waiver Program and trusted traveler programs; and reauthorizing the Travel Promotion Act. A central focus of the current agenda is enactment of the JOLT Act of 2013. The House JOLT Act (H.R. 1354) currently has more than 125 bipartisan co-sponsors. The JOLT Act addresses key barriers in the visa processing system that deter international business and leisure travel.
U.S. Visa Waiver Program
One of the JOLT Act’s key economic and national security objectives is to expand the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program currently allows business and leisure travelers from 37 partnering countries to visit the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a non-immigrant visitor visa. An enhanced Visa Waiver Program would provide necessary updates to the program while also allowing the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to designate additional program countries.
As of November 1, 2012, people from Taiwan have been able to visit the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The entry of Taiwan into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program not only supports the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, but it strengthens the nation’s economic partnership with Taiwan by giving more opportunities for the Taiwanese and Americans to do business with one another.
Taiwan is the 16th largest importer of U.S. goods and services and the seventh largest importer of California goods and services. California exported $6.3 billion to Taiwan in 2012, primarily nonelectrical machinery, computer and electronic products, waste and scrap, transportation equipment, and chemicals (among other products.
On February 28, Chile became the first Latin American country and the 38th nation to gain visa waiver status.
Visitors to the United States from Chile spent more than $5,000 per trip in 2012, 15 percent more than the average overseas traveler, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The association notes that visitor spending will likely triple the first year Chile is in the visa waiver program.
Since then, bilateral trade between Chile and the United States has more than quadrupled and both trade and investment opportunities abound. Chile is California’s 18th largest export destination. In 2013, California exported approximately $2.3 billion to Chile. This included petroleum and coal products, computer and electronic products, machinery, and chemicals. California imports the following from Chile: fresh fruits, forestry products, wines, and seafood.
For further information, please see: www.discoveramericapartnership.org