by Loren G. Edelstein | July 26, 2018
U.S. Congress Representatives Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Tom Rice (R-S.C.), introduced today the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, a bipartisan effort to increase national security, reform outdated visa laws, spur tourism and create jobs.
The JOLT Act of 2018 renames the Visa Waiver Program as the Secure Travel Partnership Program, which better reflects the mutual benefits shared by the U.S. and partner countries. Additionally, the bill allows for an expansion of the program by incentivizing intelligence-sharing and the modernization of travel infrastructure.
 
"As members of Congress, we want two things: to keep our constituents safe from harm, and to help them achieve the American Dream," said Quigley. "The JOLT Act accomplishes both of those objectives by stimulating economic activity and improving national security. By updating outdated visa laws, we can drive tourism and job growth in our cities and assist the U.S. intelligence community with their mission to spot and stop terrorist threats."
 
Added Rice in a joint statement, "The JOLT Act will enhance our economic competitiveness and strengthen national security by modernizing the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which facilitates streamlined travel into the United States for pre-approved travelers from member countries. Expanding the VWP will support the U.S. travel industry, create American jobs and bring more tourism dollars to South Carolina (and the U.S.) - all while bolstering our homeland security and counterterrorism efforts."
 
In order to protect the homeland and ensure VWP countries adhere to U.S. security standards, the JOLT Act requires the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to enforce security requirements that were previously considered discretionary. Program countries must:
 
Maintain high-level airport security standards;
Assist in the operation of an effective air-marshal program;
Maintain the highest level of security standards when issuing passports and travel documents;
Cooperate with U.S. initiatives toward combating terrorism; and
Cooperate with the U.S. intelligence community in sharing information regarding terrorist threats.
 
Since biometric or e-passports are the most secure travel documents available, the JOLT Act also closes an electronic passport-requirement loophole that previously allowed citizens of the 27 counties participating in the VWP before 2008 to use non-electronic passports if those passports were issued before October 2006. The JOLT Act would require that all individuals from program countries use e-passports. 
 
The U.S. Travel Association was quick to applaud the bill. "International inbound travel is crucial to U.S. job growth - 1.2 million jobs across America are directly supported by this segment of travel," said Tori Barnes, U.S. Travel's senior vice president for government relations. "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 that we have in place." 
 
Barnes added: "This legislation - which additionally provides improvements to the visa-interview process, extends Canadian visitation limits and encourages growth of the Global Entry Program - will not only benefit U.S. job growth, but will help facilitate and welcome travel to America for millions of qualified visitors. Now more than ever, the U.S. must work to regain its declining share of the global travel market, and the provisions of the JOLT Act will help give us a competitive edge. We look forward to working with Congress towards the passage of this important legislation."