National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Media

Effective Visa System Would Boost American Economy

January 19, 2012

Washington, D.C.During a speech at Walt Disney World on Thursday, President Obama announced an executive order to make the United States the world’s top tourism destination by simplifying the process for obtaining tourism visas. The executive order includes plans to streamline and speed up the visa process for certain non-immigrant applicants in China and Brazil. The following is a statement from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.

“The Obama Administration is right in improving our visa processing system to boost our economy while still upholding national security. Tourism is one of the largest growth industries in America, pumping nearly $1.8 trillion into the economy and supporting 14 million American jobs in 2010. Yet because of terrorism fears and bureaucratic red tape, many tourists who are ready to spend their money in the U.S. are doing so elsewhere.

“The state of Florida was a fitting backdrop for this announcement. Last year, the Sunshine State successfully rejected efforts to adopt harsh immigration legislation that would have devastated the tourism industry and pushed away foreign investment. Common sense prevailed and the legislation was defeated as the business, faith and immigrant communities pushed back against legislation that would have tarnished Florida’s global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

“The U.S. cannot afford to get tourism wrong. Since 9/11, the U.S. market share in global tourism plummeted from 17 percent to 11 percent, largely because of increased visa restrictions. According to the U.S. Travel Association, these visa hurdles cost our economy $606 billion and 467,000 jobs between 2000 and 2010.

“Having a practical and workable visa and immigration system does not mean we are compromising our national security. With the help of technology, we can institute important safeguards to our visa process while ensuring that this process remains effective and competitive.

“It is time for our leaders in Washington to recognize that both a smart tourism visa system and a smart and workable immigration system play a significant role in our ability to grow economically.”

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