International Policy Issues
U.S. Travel Association's International Policy Positions
International Visitor Snapshot
The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries at the Department of Commerce provides data on international visitation; however, the travel industry has insight that numbers lack. Help U.S. Travel better localize the impact that International travelers have on the nation’s economy. Please share your data and information on international visitation.
Global Entry (International Registered Traveler Program)
Global Entry is a travel facilitation program that provides frequent, low-risk travelers expedited processing through U.S. immigration checkpoints. Global Entry applicants must be screened through a name-based and biometric security review, as well as a personal interview, and approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Admitted applicants are then able to use automated kiosks in the CBP inspection area when entering the U.S., allowing them to move through the inspection process without undergoing a person-to-person CBP interview. The program both enhances security by allowing CBP officers to concentrate on potentially higher-risk travelers and benefits travelers by streamlining the entry system – reducing average wait times by 70 percent. Global Entry is currently open to citizens and nationals of the United States and lawful permanent residents of the United States. Citizens of the Netherlands may also apply under a special reciprocal arrangement that links Global Entry with the Privium program in Amsterdam.
Model Ports of Entry
Due to a growing perception among international travelers that the United States has one of the world’s worst entry systems, in January 2006, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and then Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff created a pilot “model airport” program to reduce passenger processing wait times and establish a more welcoming environment at inspection areas. In 2007, Congress fully authorized a Model Ports Program and appropriated $40 million to expand it to the 20 U.S. airports with the highest number of inbound international visitors and hire no fewer than 200 new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at those model airports. Since the program’s creation, DHS has initiated several improvements to expedite and enhance passenger processing, including installing flat-screen monitors in the processing area to educate passengers about the screening process and establishing a new professionalism program to improve customer service training for its officers.
The United States welcomed 2.4 million fewer overseas visitors in 2009 than in 2000 – remaining below pre-9/11 levels of overseas visitors for the ninth consecutive year – despite a weak dollar that made the U.S. a travel bargain and 46 million more people around the world traveling long haul. The failure of the United States to simply keep pace with the growth in international long-haul travel has cost our economy an estimated $509 billion in total spending and 441,000 American jobs which could have been created or sustained in the years over the past decade. In addition, our country forfeited an estimated $32 billion in direct tax receipts over the same period. Overseas visitors are America’s largest service export, benefit all regions of the country and provide “new dollars” to the American economy, spending on average more than $4,000 when they visit here. In addition to the economic benefits of overseas travelers, those who have visited the United States are 74 percent more likely to have a favorable opinion of the country than those who have not visited, generating diplomacy through “people-to-people” interaction.
Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP), created in 1986, is a critical tool for promoting travel to America and enhancing its public diplomacy efforts by permitting business and leisure travelers from 35 countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a non-immigrant visitor visa. In 2008, the countries in the VWP generated more than 16 million visits to the U.S. – accounting for 65 percent of all overseas arrivals last year. These VWP travelers spent more than $51 billion in the U.S. in 2008, excluding international airfare. That spending generated 512,000 jobs, $13 billion in payroll and $7.8 billion in government taxes for the U.S. economy in 2008. The VWP also allows the federal government to strengthen our nation’s homeland security efforts by allowing it to shift resources towards screening visitors from higher risk countries.
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, created by the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS), requires all travelers (including U.S. citizens) to have a passport or other approved, secure document to establish identity and citizenship upon entry or re-entry into the United States from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The purpose of WHTI, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission, is to strengthen U.S. border security by facilitating the entry of travelers through the use of standardized documentation that allows the federal government to quickly and reliably identify individuals.