U.S. Reps. Joe Heck (R-NV) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) have re-introduced in Congress the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, a bipartisan effort to create jobs by reforming the nation's Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to increase international travel to the United States.
Originally introduced in 2012 by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the JOLT Act has failed to come for a vote in the last two Congresses. If passed, Heck and Quigley say the legislation could attract as many as 98 million more visitors to the United States, create a million American jobs, and generate as much as $859 billion in revenue by 2020.
"Increasing international travel opportunities and updating visa travel protocol will drive tourism dollars to cities across the country," Quigley said in a statement. "Now is the time to pass the JOLT Act and modernize the Visa Waiver Program, which will strengthen our national security and enhance relationships with important allies."
Between 2000 and 2010, the global long-haul travel market grew by 40 percent. And yet, the U.S. share of the market fell from 17 to 12 percent during the same period. According to the U.S. Travel Association, which ardently supports the legislation, the JOLT Act would increase that market share by:
• Amending the VWP to make mandatory several security requirements that are currently discretionary, including those related to airport security standards and a country's air marshal program.
• Tightening passport requirements.
• Directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to better integrate information from multiple U.S. government systems and databases in order to conduct more efficient vetting for VWP applicants.
• Ensuring the Secretary of Homeland Security has the requisite authority to expand VWP to countries that fully meet all the security guidelines.
"The travel industry's top priority is the security of our nation and travelers," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow during recent testimony before Congress. "We support effective reforms to the VWP like those in the JOLT Act which would both strengthen and expand the program. The VWP helps keep our country secure while facilitating international travel that adds billions in economic output and supports nearly one million jobs."
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