19 January 2012

American Visa Waiver Program opens up to boost economy

US President Barack Obama is expected to announce new plans to open up the US Visa Waiver Program to even more countries, in an effort to increase tourism and give the economy a much needed boost.

American visa

President Obama is expected to announce new additions to the Visa Waiver Program in his speech at Disney World.

In a speech to be given at one of America's most iconic tourist destinations, Cinderella's Castle at the Walt Disney World Resort, tourism experts expect President Obama to announce changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which will make it easier for tourists from Brazil and China to gain an American visa.

The current Program allows visitors from 36 countries, including the UK, France, Italy and Spain, to visit the US for tourism or business purposes for a maximum of 90 days without obtaining an American visa.

However, tourists from Brazil and China, among other places, must personally visit an American embassy or consular services in their home countries. Currently, Brazil has just four cities which offer consular services, and the waiting times at such places can be huge.

The US hopes that it can capitalise on tourists eager to visit their country, and with Brazilian tourists spending an average of almost $5,000 (£3,240) and Chinese tourists a massive $6,250 (£4,000), opening up the VWP could have a great effect on the US economy.

The global tourism industry swelled by over 60 million annual travellers in the last decade yet according to the US Travel Association, the numbers of tourists entering America remained almost the same.

This trend, according to some experts, is due to the current Program, claiming too many tourists are foregoing the tedious visa application process in favour of other destinations with more relaxed regulations.

"The fact is that people want to come to America" said Geoff Freeman, chief operating officer at the US Travel Association.

"They are choosing to go elsewhere and Americans are paying the price".

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program countries make their ESTA application.

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