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U.S. Travel Endorses Visa Waiver Program Expansion Legislation

altThe U.S. Travel Association has announced its endorsement of new legislation to help expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act, introduced by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), enhances security measures while extending the VWP framework to welcome additional countries.

"Expanding the Visa Waiver Program benefits our economy and creates U.S. jobs," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "I want to thank Senators Mikulski and Kirk, and Representatives Quigley and Chabot, for their vision to create legislation that allows for the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program, and we look forward to the economic growth that will occur as a result."

Among the legislation's key components are:

Updated Eligibility Criteria, requiring applicant countries to maintain an average non-immigrant visa overstay rate of not more than three percent in addition to the current requirement of an average non-immigrant visa refusal rate of not more than three percent;

Updated Refusal Rate Criteria, utilizing the Department of State's new ability to more accurately calculate visa refusal rates based on the number of individual applications, rather than total number of applications;

Exercise of Waiver Authority, reinstating the Secretary of Homeland Security's waiver authority to enable a country to be designated for the VWP if the country meets all of the current VWP requirements and has a visa refusal rate of no more than ten percent; and

Synchronized Probation and Termination Provisions with the Overstay Rate Based Eligibility Criteria. The original legislation triggered probation for a VWP country if the overstay rate exceeded three percent. The new requirement triggers probation if the VWP country does not meet that or any other VWP requirement. Probation would be lifted when the country again meets VWP requirements.

Earlier today, Mr. Dow sent letters of endorsement regarding the bill to the House and Senate.


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