Expedite U.S. visas for foreign travel
Sen. Daniel Inouye plans legislation to make travel easier for people from countries where a U.S. visa is required.
DELAYS in processing visas and other problems are hindering the promotion of the United States as a tourist destination. Sen. Daniel Inouye says legislation is needed to prod the Bush administration to do more to make travel easier from countries not included in the visa-waiver program. He is in a position to push such a bill as the new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Nationally, overseas visitors dropped from 26 million annually to 21 million from 2000 to 2005, coming to Hawaii mostly from Japan and to the mainland from Western Europe, where visas are not required. This comes at a time when the weak dollar had made visits to the U.S. cheaper for foreign travelers.
State Department statistics show that travelers from places in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, wait nearly two months or more to get an interview for a visa. Delays also hamper visitation to Hawaii from Korea and China, where the average wait is 22 days in the southern city of Guangzhou.
Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said his department supports legislation that would expand the number of countries where visitors are not required to apply for visas. Tougher security reviews of those travelers and other changes would enable the expansion, he said.
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