Visa Waiver Program
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.
U.S. TRAVEL POSITION
The Visa Waiver Program is critical to increasing foreign travel to the United States and helping our economy, as overseas travelers spend more and stay longer than visitors from Canada and Mexico. The U.S. Travel Association advocates continued expansion of the Visa Waiver Program under its current parameters, which include enhanced security information sharing between the United States and visa waiver countries on criminal records, verifiable passport issuance and a visa refusal rate of 10 percent. These federal policies helped welcome the entry of eight new countries into the VWP in 2008, and U.S. Travel encourages the U.S. government to maintain these policies so that key Latin American allies such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile can become part of the VWP.