Washington DC- President Barack Obama today announced a new national strategy to boost tourism, including making it easier for visitors from China, Brazil, and elsewhere to travel to the U.S. and encouraging foreign tourists to visit our national parks and monuments.
President Obama’s announcement calls for processing visa applications faster, especially for visitors from China and Brazil, making permanent the Global Entry Program which expedites pre-approved, low-risk travelers, and expanding the Visa Waiver Program to Taiwan.
Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (HI-02), who recently introduced bipartisan legislation to reform the visa process so we can welcome more visitors from China and Canada, hailed the President’s announcement:
“As someone who grew up in Hawaii, President Obama clearly understands the importance of tourism. Shortening visa wait times and expanding the Global Entry and Visa Waiver programs will help us compete globally and attract more visitors while maintaining our national security.”
“Hawaii’s small business owners like Gisela Cooper of Polynesian Treasures in Haleiwa have shared with me their reliance on a steady flow of visitors to keep their doors open. Reforming our visa policies will help. The VISIT USA Act that I recently introduced would help meet the goals that the President has outlined today for visa reform, and I’m hopeful some of our ideas can be incorporated into his new national tourism strategy.”
Congresswoman Hirono’s legislation, the VISIT USA Act, recently introduced with Republican Congressman David Dreier (CA-26) , aims to cut red tape and reform U.S. visa policies—potentially bringing an estimated 280,000 visitors from China, Canada, and other high-growth markets to Hawaii each year, boosting economic growth and creating jobs in the state.
Among the VISIT USA Act’s reforms are allowing Chinese visitors to apply for 5-year multiple-entry visitor visas, initiating a videoconference pilot program to conduct visa interviews for foreign nationals applying for visas, creating a Canadian retiree visa that would last 240 days, and allowing important foreign dignitaries, such as Olympic athletes, to be added to the Global Entry Program after a review of their case.