Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

Cover Story

Meeting Industry Applauds as U.S.
Fast-tracks Visa Improvements

One of the key actions stipulated in the Executive Order that President Barack Obama signed just weeks into 2012 is to “improve visa and foreign visitor processing.” Putting this goal on a fast track drew a standing ovation from associations representing the meetings, business travel and tourism marketplaces.

U.S. Travel Association (USTA) emphasized the importance of this executive order:

* Every 35 international visitors to the United States generate one American job that can’t be outsourced. Today, the travel industry employs 14 million Americans and generates $50 billion in tax revenues.

* Making it easer for international travelers to attend business meetings, tradeshows and conventions will boost the U.S. economy by $263 billion annually and support 1.7 million American jobs.

Within 60 days of the order, the Departments of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Office of Management and Budget, and any other appropriate agencies, will develop an implementation plan to achieve: a 40 percent increase over the coming year in nonimmigrant visa processing in China and Brazil; 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa interviews conducted within three weeks of receipt of application; expanded Visa Waiver Program; and expanded reciprocal recognition programs, like Global Entry, for expedited travel.

(The State and Homeland Security Departments that same day announced a pilot program to speed visa processing for certain applicants in Brazil and China, including the ability to waive interviews for those at low risk, such as individuals renewing expired visas or some categories of younger or older first-time applicants. Over the course of the year, this program could open as many as 100,000 interview appointments for Chinese travelers applying for visas for the first time. That increase in tourism could support as many as 1,500 travel and tourism-related jobs.)

“Our International CES show last month attracted more than 34,000 international attendees. But we should have many more,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Electronics Association. “In addition to benefiting attendees and exhibitors at our technology tradeshow, a more efficient and streamlined visa system will most certainly have larger ramifications as our country’s future relies on the global marketplace.”

“I am delighted to see that the White House recognizes and agrees with our industry’s rallying cry, ‘Meetings Mean Business,’” said Deborah Sexton, president and CEO, Professional Convention Management Association. “The economic importance of the meetings and travel industry will now drive critical changes to bring efficiencies to the visa process, which ultimately will mean more visitors, jobs and dollars to the United States.”

The executive order further requires that State and Homeland Security Departments submit a progress report approximately six months from the date of the order, and periodically thereafter. The order also creates a Task Force on Travel and Tourism that must report to the President within 90 days of the date of the order. One of its key goals will be to recommend policies and initiatives to increase the U.S. share of the travel market worldwide — the other key action stipulated in the executive order.

“Travel and tourism is a top-tier industry that America can ill afford to neglect. ASAE heartily endorses any new strategies that encourage and facilitate travel to the United States, whether for business or pleasure,” noted American Society of Association Executives president and CEO John Graham, CAE. “Specifically, ASAE welcomes the Administration’s plans to expand the Global Entry and Visa Waiver Programs, which would certainly help facilitate international travel to meetings and conventions here in the U.S.” — Maxine Golding


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