White House Announces Initiatives to Streamline Visitor Visa Process for Some,Increase Tourism to the U.S

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On January 19, 2012, President Obama signed an executive order for the dual purposes of streamlining the visitor visa process for certain foreign nationals while boosting the domestic economy and creating jobs through promoting increased international travel and tourism to the U.S.

The executive order, entitled “Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness,” acknowledges that post-911 security measures imposed upon the nonimmigrant visa process have in part slowed international travel to the U.S., and thus calls for multiple agencies to work quickly together to implement the new policies in the order to jump-start a boom in travel.

On the visa side, the order requires the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to develop an implementation plan within sixty days of the order to establish a new visa pilot program with the goal of accomplishing a variety of tasks including increasing nonimmigrant visa processing in the key tourist markets of Brazil and China by forty percent within the year, ensuring that eighty percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of submitting their visa applications and augmenting efforts to encourage travel by foreign nationals of Visa Waiver participant countries.

On the tourism side, the order provides for the setup of a “Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness” composed of multiple agencies including the Departments of State, Treasury, Agriculture and Labor and Transportation, to develop a “National Travel and Tourism Strategy” within ninety days of the order with the goal of promoting international tourism to the U.S. and garnering a greater market share of worldwide travel coming from Brazil, China and India, by, among other things, developing strategies to promote travel to parks, monuments and “iconic American destinations,” as well as the possible expansion of tourism promotion efforts to rural areas.

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