America aims to ease its visa policies

By | Category: Travel news

Earlier this year, Chile was admitted into the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which permits visa free travel to the US for eligible travellers visiting for 90 days or less.

And if the US Travel Association and its travel industry allies have their way, that’s just the beginning of a fresh round of inductees.

The US Travel Association has banded together with other industry leaders to support the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act that would modernise and expand the Visa Waiver Program by updating eligibility requirements to allow travellers from several additional countries – including Poland, Israel and Brazil – to obtain visa-free entry.

And for good reason as the case of South Korea makes only to clear. The South Asian nation was admitted to the VWP in 2008. As a result visits to the US from South Korea increased by nearly two thirds by 2012 while spending in the US by South Korean travellers rose 52 per cent from US$2.7 to US$4.2 billion.

It’s no surprise then that long term, travel industry insiders are strongly in favour of expanding the VWP. Short term, for travellers from nations where visa requirements remain in place, the goal is to make the application and approval process more efficient.

The situation is improving stresses  Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president of government  relations at the US Travel Association: “For the last couple of years, we’ve worked with the Obama administration to [help them to] understand the value of people getting processed in a timely manner. We have to give credit to the US State Department. There’s been significant progress there.”

Case in point? In emerging markets like Brazil, India and China, where travellers previously waited for as long as 100 days or more to get a visa, they can sometimes now pick them up in less than a week.

The JOLT Act also aims to improve the existing visa process through a variety of measures – including reduced visa wait times,  expansion of the Global Entry program and the introduction of secure videoconferencing for visa interviews.

As the case of South Korea makes clear, America would be mad not to roll out the welcome mat to international travellers.

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