19 September 2012

White House praises US visa driven tourism boost

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President Barack Obama has hailed the influence changes to US visa processing have had on the country's tourism industry.

US visa

President Obama has praised the success his visa changes have made.

The United States consistently ranks as one of the world's most popular tourist destinations but while the rest of world's share of the tourism market, and their tourism revenue, has grown over the last decade, America's has remained almost constant and US visa policy was handed the blame.

Many countries, including the UK and Ireland, are part of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows passport holders from eligible countries to visit the country for tourism purposes without the need for a US visa.

However, much of the rest of the world requires a US visa and critics have pointed to a prolonged and complicated system, too focused on security, as the reason why the country's tourism market has stagnated for over a decade.

In order to combat this, President Obama in January gave his State Department 60 days to formulate more efficient ways of processing tourist visa applications.

The State Department began rolling out more consular assistance in certain countries, particularly Brazil and China, as well as adding more multi-lingual staff, reducing interview wait times and waiving the need for a fresh interview for secondary visitors to the US.

And now, the White House has issued a report commenting on the success the changes have had which, prior to a presidential election likely to be fought and won on economic issues, have provided a much needed boost to the American economy.

The report shows tourism contributed $1.4 trillion (£860 billion) to the country's economy in 2011 and was responsible for over 7.5 million jobs.

President Obama lauded the changes' success:

"Every year tens of millions of tourists come from all over the world to visit America. That's good for business, it's good for the economy and it's good for our country," said the American president.

"That's why, back in January, I announced new initiatives to bolster tourism and promote everything America has to offer and make it even easier for tourists to come and visit, without sacrificing our nation's security.

"I'm glad we're making progress and I'll continue to do whatever I can to strengthen the travel and tourism industry and create an economy that's built to last."

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

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