Two US Congress representatives, Michael Quigley, US Representative for Illinois’s 5th congressional district, and Tom Rice, US Representative for South Carolina’s 7th congressional district have introduced the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel Act, shortly referred to as JOLT. The JOLT Act is a bipartisan attempt to increase national security, reform the old visa laws as well as to bolster international tourism to the US, thus making it possible to create new jobs.
Moreover, the bill renames the well-known Visa Waiver Program to “Secure Travel Partnership Program”, in order to reflect better the benefits shared by the US and its partner countries in the program.
It also permits the enlargement of the program by stimulating intelligence sharing, as well as the modernization of travel infrastructure, which are both crucial to the national security of the United States.
According to Congressman Tom Rice, the JOLT Act will enhance the economic competitiveness of the US and will also strengthen national security by modernizing the Visa Waiver Program.
“Expanding the VWP will support the U.S. travel industry, create American jobs, and bring more tourism dollars to South Carolina – all while bolstering our homeland security and counterterrorism efforts.”
The US Travel Association welcomed the bill, among others. Its senior Vice President for Government Relations Tori Barnes applauded it claiming that the international inbound travel is crucial to the US job growth.
“1.2 million jobs across America are directly supported by this segment of travel. But our potential to grow that number and regain and increase our share of the global travel market, is only as strong as the policies we have in place, ” Barnes said.
The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) issued a press release in response to the JOLT Act, through which its President and CEO Chip Rogers, claims that the act would bring US visa regulations into 21st century and facilitate traveling in and out of the country for foreign visitors.
“Currently, the citizens of 38 countries can travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without having to go through the process of obtaining a visa, but this program can and should be extended to other select countries. By streamlining the visa waiver program, the JOLT Act would bring more travelers to the US and create more business for hoteliers and all facets of the travel and tourism industry,” is said in the statement, where Rogers also claims that the act opens the door for greater job creation, increased worker wages, and overall business expansion.
Among others, the JOLT Act also obliges the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to strengthen security requirements that had previously been considered as optional, some of which are as following:
- Maintenance of high level airport security standards,
- Assistance in the operation of an effective air marshal program,
- Maintenance of the highest level of security standards when issuing passports and other travel documents,
- Cooperation with the United States’ initiatives toward combating terrorism, and
- Cooperation with the United States intelligence community in sharing information regarding terrorist threats.
It is estimated that around 22 million people traveled to the US through the Visa waiver Program only in 2016, what generated more than $90 million for the US economy.
The program was created in 1986 by the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Currently 38 countries are part of the program, the nationals of which have to apply through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), while the nationals of the rest of world countries need to apply and obtain a regular US visa in order to be permitted to enter and remain in the US.