WASHINGTON — A travel industry-endorsed plan to make it easier for foreign tourists to obtain visas to visit the United States was reintroduced Thursday in Congress.
The Jobs Originated Through Launching Travel, or JOLT, Act, would direct the State Department to charge additional fees to expedite the processing of non-immigrant visas. It also would:
■ Alter requirements to make it easier for a handful of US allies such as Poland Chile and Brazil to qualify as “visa waiver” nations whose citizens do not need visas to travel to the United States.
■ Set a goal that 90 percent of all visa interviews be conducted within 10 business days, with exceptions for emergencies and national security reasons.
■ Establish a two-year pilot program for the State Department to conduct visa interviews through teleconferences rather than requiring potential visitors to travel to U.S. consulates for interviews.
■ Encourage the State Department and Department of Homeland Security to coordinate visas with the Global Entry program that allows low-risk travelers to bypass traditional customs inspections and use automated kiosks instead.
■ Permit qualified Canadians to remain in the United States for longer than 180 days and as many as 240 days without needing a visa.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Mike Quigley, D-Ill., is backed by a range of travel associations, including the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“International travel is a key growth market for the tourism industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas, and we need to make sure visitors wishing to travel here can do so in a timely and efficient manner,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas authority.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.