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by Michael J. Shapiro | January 19, 2012

The White House issued an executive order today to establish goals in improving visa and foreign-visitor processing times, and to create a task force on travel and competitiveness. Within 60 days, several agencies — including the departments of state and homeland security — must collaborate on a plan to achieve the following goals:
• Increase nonimmigrant visa-processing capacity for China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year;
• Ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of application receipt, allowing for security considerations;
• Increase efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program, and
• Expand reciprocal recognition programs for expediting travel, such as the Global Entry program.
   The secretaries of state and homeland security are to provide a progress update within six months, and the secretary of commerce must establish a public website with information and statistics regarding visa processes and entry times in key travel-and-tourism markets. Additionally, the order calls for the creation of the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, to be co-chaired by the secretaries of commerce and the interior. The multi-agency task force will develop a national travel-and-tourism strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the U.S., including the increase of long-haul travel from Brazil, China and India.
   The Global Business Travel Association immediately praised the order, specifically its commitment to Global Entry and the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program. "Expanding the Visa Waiver Program will allow more inbound international travel, which will be a tremendous boost for the economy. There has never been a more important time to make it easier for business travelers, which will ultimately lead to even more travel," said GBTA executive director and COO Michael W. McCormick.