Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is essential to both facilitating inbound travel to the United States and protecting the homeland as it requires pre-screening of travelers who are pre-approved through the program.
Enhanced cooperation from participating countries with whom the U.S. holds the best law-enforcement and security relationships is a requirement for participation. The Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is authorized to designate countries eligible to participate in the VWP based on a determination that the country meets the applicable requirements.
Expanding the VWP by extending eligibility to additional countries beyond the 38 nations that currently participate would further strengthen U.S. national security because travelers entering the United States under the VWP are required to be pre-screened and pre-approved through DHS’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Participating countries are required to issue passports that conform to international security standards and report information on all lost or stolen passports to U.S. authorities via INTERPOL. Participating countries also must share information with U.S. authorities on travelers who may pose a terrorist or criminal threat.
A DRIVER OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
By facilitating low-risk travel from allied countries into America, the VWP also drives U.S. economic growth, spurs job creation, and creates a more positive impression of America worldwide. In 2014, more than 20.3 million travelers (60 percent of all overseas visitors) arrived to the U.S. through the VWP. While here, they generated $190 billion in economic output and supported nearly 1 million American jobs.
The program has also directly boosted foreign direct investment (FDI) into America from participating countries. After gaining VWP status, FDI into the United States from South Korea, Singapore and Ireland has seen significant and rapid gains in addition to bolstering homeland security.
U.S. TRAVEL POSITION
The VWP is a proven program that increases long-haul travel to America, enhances security and strengthens our economy. The U.S. Travel Association advocates for continued expansion of the VWP under its current parameters, which include improved 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.
Expansion of the program will:
- Further strengthen U.S. national security: The program strengthens U.S. border security and enhances the customs and entry security process due to the program’s pre-screened, pre-approved visitor entry process and increased security cooperation requirements for participating countries.
- Help local communities: Overseas visitors spend an average of $4,500 per trip and generate tax revenue in communities nationwide without burdening local services, such as public schools and fire departments.
- Support American jobs and economic growth: In 2014, direct travel spending in the U.S. totaled $927 billion, which generated a total of $2.1 trillion in economic output and more than $141 billion in tax revenue. Travel also directly employed 8 million Americans and was among the top 10 employers in 49 states and the District of Columbia.