Rebranding the visa waiver program

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by Toni-Anne Barry

These days, it seems like politicians cannot agree about anything. That’s because it’s convenient for the media to use a gridlock narrative as shorthand for the contrarian and obstinate behavior that defines how our elected representatives address a few big issues. However, a different, more nuanced picture emerges when one takes a closer look at the actual lawmaking process – the pursuit of positive change. Common Ground profiles two members of opposing parties who are working together to advance issues important to hoteliers.

THE ISSUE

Renaming the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens from 38 designated countries to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without needing to obtain a visa. The VWP was first established in 1986 and continues to enable millions of tourists to travel to the U.S. each year, supporting American small businesses across the nation. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 23 million travelers arrived to the U.S. through the VWP and generated $190 billion in economic output in 2017 alone.

For many Americans, national security is a top priority, and the name “Visa Waiver” can cause concern that this program poses a security risk. In reality, every traveler who uses the VWP must adhere to the strict security requirements of being pre-screened and pre-approved through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization before being allowed into the country.

COMMON GROUND

Legislators on both sides of the aisle understand the importance of the VWP and are concerned over possible misconceptions that can arise due to its name. U.S. Representatives Tom Rice (SC-07), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), and Mike Quigley (IL-05) worked together to introduce legislation to rename the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership to fix this issue. Renaming the program gives it the integrity it deserves as a key economic driver of the national economy without any doubt about the strength of its security.

Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC)

First Elected: 2012

Committees: Ways and Means

“Renaming the Visa Waiver Program to the Security Travel Partnership more accurately reflects the program’s intent to strengthen national security and spur tourism to the United States. This important step is part of our larger effort to bolster homeland security, create American jobs, and bring more tourism dollars to South Carolina.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)

First Elected: 2016

Committees: Oversight and Reform, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
“The Visa Waiver Program exists as a crucial program that protects our nation’s security, creates American jobs, and bolsters alliances with our friends. The rebranding of the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership encapsulates these major benefits to our economy and national security, while eliminating any confusion about the true mission of this program.”

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