Obama Signs Executive Order To Ease Inbound International Travel - Business Travel News

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Obama Signs Executive Order To Ease Inbound International Travel

January 19, 2012 - 12:05 PM ET

By David Jonas

The White House indicated that President Barack Obama today would sign an executive order and announce other initiatives to facilitate inbound international travel and tourism. Following a year in which the U.S. State Department issued 17 percent more visas than during fiscal 2010, Obama's plans call for expanding reciprocal international trusted-travel programs, adding Taiwan and other countries to the Visa Waiver Program, streamlining visa processing especially in Brazil and China, appointing new members to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and creating a "national travel and tourism strategy."

The executive order specifically charges the departments of State and Homeland Security to interview within three weeks of receiving applications 80 percent of all non-immigrant visa applicants. In China and Brazil, they are tasked with increasing this year visa processing capacity by 40 percent. "During the past five years, visa issuances have increased 234 percent in Brazil and 124 percent in China," according to State Department information.

"In select circumstances, qualified foreign visitors who were interviewed and thoroughly screened in conjunction with a prior visa application may be able to renew their visas without undergoing another interview," according to the State Department.

Though the administration is boosting its visa-issuing capabilities in China and Brazil, those countries have not been nominated for the Visa Waiver Program. In China, absence from VWP is seen by some as a barrier to an Open Skies treaty with the United States. The State Department formally requested Taiwan's inclusion in VWP, and along with DHS, will expand to other countries that program and the Global Entry trusted traveler program.

The executive order also charges the secretaries of Commerce and the Interior to lead "an interagency task force to develop recommendations for a national travel and tourism strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States, thereby expanding job creation." The taskforce will coordinate with the Corporation for Travel Promotion, created by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, and the Tourism Policy Council.

Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce is charged with "maintaining a publicly available website with key information and statistics from across the Federal Government to assist industry and travelers in understanding visa processes in key travel and tourism markets, and entry times into the United States."

In addition to the executive order, the White House announced that the administration will issue a final rule to make permanent the Global Entry program, which currently operates at 20 U.S. airports and includes 246,000 members. The final rule would expand the program to airports in Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis and Phoenix.

Also announced today, Commerce Secretary Bryson appointed of 32 private-sector CEOs to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to address "travel facilitation, visa policy, improving the international travel entry experience, aviation security, energy security, crisis communications and research and data, among other issues." New board members include JetBlue Airways chief commercial officer Robin Hayes, Marriott International executive vice president Kathleen Matthews and US Airways CEO Doug Parker.

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