Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, a leading advocate for increasing tourism to Nevada, has cosponsored legislation that will expand the Visa Waiver Program in order to increase the number of foreign tourists traveling from abroad to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Reno and other destinations in the Silver State. The Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act will strengthen the security of the Visa Waiver Program and encourage more countries to take part in the agreement that makes it easier for eligible tourists from participating nations to visit the United States.
"Job creation should be our top priority and promoting tourism -- Nevada's largest industry -- will help put people back to work and get our economy on track. Increasing foreign travel through the Visa Waiver Program will ensure that Nevada's cities remain among the top tourist destinations in the world," said Berkley.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows foreign nationals from participating countries up to 90 days of visa-free travel to the United States. Currently, 36 countries are eligible for visa-free travel under the program. Nearly 18 million tourists entered the United States under this program in 2010, a figure that represents 44% of all overseas visitors. Berkley is seeking to increase the number of nations that take part in the program as a means to encourage more travelers to visit Nevada. Nations that could benefit from the Visa Waiver bill include: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Poland.
The legislation cosponsored by Berkley would also enhance national security by encouraging the sharing of information between member countries and requiring that lost or stolen passports be reported in a timely manner. In addition, participants in the Visa Waiver Program are required to maintain enhanced counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards. Enhanced security procedures in the VWP enable DHS to determine, prior to travel, whether a VWP traveler poses a security risk to the U.S.
Berkley has been a leader in Congress on efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program, advocating for the inclusion of Greece, now a participant, and for Taiwan and Poland to join the list of nations taking part in the agreement. The Congresswoman was also a strong advocate for passage of the Travel Promotion Act, a law that established a not-for-profit corporation that markets the United States as an international travel destination. Berkley is also working to pass the Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America (VISIT USA) Act, which also seeks to modernize the Visa Waiver process.