Rep. Joe Heck (R–NV) has introduced the Welcoming Business Travelers and Tourists to America Act of 2011 (H.R. 3039), which would increase fees imposed on travelers entering the United States as a method of speeding up the processing of travel document applications. The revenue from increased fees would fund State Department staffing increases designed to streamline and accelerate visa processing, thereby increasing tourism into the United States. Highlights of H.R. 3039 include the following:
- The State Department must set a visa processing standard of 12 or fewer calendar days at U.S diplomatic or consular missions in Brazil, India and China, and increase staffing levels.
- The State Department must conduct a two-year pilot program on using secure, remote video-conferencing technology to conduct visa application interviews.
- The Secretary of State would be permitted to modify or enter into agreements with certain countries to allow for longer visa validity periods.
According to the bill’s legislative findings, over the past decade the United States lost the opportunity to generate $606 billion in revenue through tourism. Moreover, increasing tourism by shortening the nonimmigrant visa approval timeline could permit an additional 98 million visitors, create 1.3 million jobs, and generate $859 billion in U.S. economic output between 2015 and 2020. Additionally, the findings contend that removing these barriers will benefit U.S. diplomatic relations.