Following a visit to the Disney World in Orlando, Fl., on Thursday, to speak about boosting the country's economy through tourism, U.S. President Barack Obama announced steps, over the weekend, to cash in on the country's tourism potential.
Obama indicated that relaxing visa regulations for a few countries and faster processing of those visas could attract more tourists to the United States, creating more job opportunities for Americans.
We're going to expand the number of countries where visitors can get pre-cleared by Homeland Security so they don't need a tourist visa, he announced, adding, Frequent travelers who pass an extensive background check will be able to scan their passports and fingerprints and skip long lines at immigration at more airports.
And we're going to speed up visa processing for countries with growing middle classes that can afford to visit America - countries like China and Brazil, he added.
The President further said that tens of millions of international tourists visit America every year and his government would like that number to increase; they want more people to visit and spend money at hotels, restaurants and while shopping and visiting the national treasures, which will provide local businesses and economies a boost.
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Tourism is the number one service we export. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work, he said.
The countries under consideration for visa processing rule changes include China and Brazil. This would ensure that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application, according to the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security.
Obama's steps towards capitalizing on tourism also include increasing the number of countries under the Visa Waiver Program. The program allows visitors from participating nations to travel without a visa, for tourism or business, and stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days within a period of six months. Currently, there are 36 countries in the Visa Waiver Program, accounting for about 60 percent of foreign tourists who visit the U.S. without obtaining a visa, the Department of Homeland Security said.
Taiwan is on top of the list for inclusion under the Visa Waiver Program, in line with the President's goal to promote tourism. According to the White House, Taiwan has undertaken significant efforts over the past year to meet the strict requirements for the program. The country was included under the EU Visa Waiver Program in November 2010 and that prompted an increase in the number of arrivals from Taiwan to EU countries by at least 30 percent.