Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (HI-02) issued the following statement on the U.S. Department of State's announcement this week that it has processed the one millionth visa application in China to date in fiscal year 2012, nearly a 43 percent increase from the same time last year:
"This week's announcement from the State Department is great news for our nation's tourism industry. Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, and the hard work of U.S. consular staff, the U.S. has seen an increase in Chinese visitors of 48 percent this year. Our economy is seeing the benefits of this as well, with the travel and tourism industry creating jobs 26 percent faster than other industries. Just several days ago, the Commerce Department released statistics showing that travel is yet again one of our nation's top exports -- increasing by 12 percent so far this year.
"But our work is far from done, especially at a time when too many Americans are still looking for jobs. As this week's report and recent economic numbers recognize, travel and tourism is helping to fuel our recovery. One way to really step on the gas and boost jobs even faster would be for Congress to reform our visa laws -- like by passing the bipartisan VISIT USA Act, a bill that would make it even easier for the State Department to process visas and attract more visitors from high-growth markets like China, India, and Brazil. The VISIT USA Act could potentially create 6,000 new jobs and hundreds of millions in visitor spending in Hawaii alone, benefitting small businesses from food trucks in Haleiwa to independent jewelry-makers in Hilo."
Key provisions of the VISIT USA Act include:
·Allow Chinese visitors to apply for 5-year multiple-entry visitor visas. Currently, Chinese visitors can only apply for a 1-year multiple-entry visitor visa.
Allow an extra fee to be charged to expedite the processing of a non-immigrant visa.
Create a videoconference pilot program to conduct visa interviews for foreign nationals applying for visas.
Allow Canadian citizens to get visas that last 240 days, renewable every 3 years.
Lower visa fees during off-peak seasons to encourage more applications when demand is lower.
Allow U.S. allies in the fight against global terrorism to become part of the Visa Waiver Program, so citizens of selected countries can travel to the U.S. more easily.
Allow important foreign dignitaries, like Olympians, to be added to the Global Entry Program after a review of their case.