by Michael J. Shapiro | April 01, 2014
A federal bill that aims to ease travel restrictions and challenges for international inbound travelers to the United States is poised for passage by the U.S. House of Representatives. HR 1354, known as the JOLT Act -- for "Jobs Originated through Launching Travel" -- has widespread bipartisan support, according to its authors, and is merely awaiting an attachment to the right legislation for a vote.

The bill, proposed by Reps. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill., left), has the support of the U.S. Travel Association as well as regional and local travel organizations. Provisions include:

• An expansion and modernization of the Visa Waiver Program;

• The launch of a pilot program to conduct visa interviews via secure videoconference;

• A reduction in visa wait times, and

• An expansion of the Global Entry Program.

Experience has shown that expanding the Visa Waiver Program alone could have a direct effect on increasing inbound travel. According to data from U.S. Travel, in the year following the program's expansion to include South Korea, the number of visitors from that country more than tripled.

Other research from U.S. Travel shows that overseas visitors spend an average of $4,455 per visit, and for every 33 additional international visitors (from countries other than Canada or Mexico), another job is created in the U.S.

"All that remains is for congressional leaders to identify a legislative vehicle for moving JOLT's provisions," wrote Heck and Quigley in a post on the Congress Blog. "Immigration reform, which House leaders say they are serious about advancing, would be a logical choice." The provisions of the act already are included in the Senate's immigration reform bill.

The bill has attracted 65 Democrat and 58 Republican sponsors. "It is very unusual these days for a bill containing real policy substance to achieve [such] consensus," wrote Heck and Quigley. "We often only see that type of agreement on post office namings and other noncontroversial measures."