U.S. Agrees to Establish Visa Waiver Program Working Group for Brazil
By James Shillinglaw
July 12, 2012 10:25 PM
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar and Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Alan Bersin traveled to Brazil where they agreed with Brazilian government officials on a statement of intent to establish a Visa Waiver Program for Brazilian citizens traveling to the United States.
"Brazil is one of the United States' most steadfast allies and partners when it comes to protecting our hemisphere from evolving threats," said Secretary Napolitano. "We're pleased to be working with our Brazilian counterparts on efforts to both ensure national security and facilitate economic security."
Foreign visitors to the U.S. spent more than $150 billion in 2011 on travel and tourism-related goods and services. The Visa Waiver facilitates this trade and travel, enabling nationals of 36 participating countries to travel to the U.S. for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
Brazil is a country that generates significant numbers of tourists bound for the United States. Without a Visa Waiver Program, Brazilians have had to apply for visas under a procedures that mandates in-person interviews for each visa applicant. The U.S. travel industry has been trying to ease this process in order to promote more tourism and boost jobs in the U.S.
The U.S. Travel Association today commended the Department of Homeland Security for announcing the statement of intent to establish a Visa Waiver Program Working Group with Brazil. “This is a significant step in laying out the necessary work stream to advance Brazil’s inclusion as a Visa Waiver Program country,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “The travel industry appreciates Secretary Napolitano’s attention to this matter, and we urge Congress to commit itself to passing the JOLT Act, which will lead to expansion of the VWP program and ensure additional economic growth.”
Last year, U.S. Travel was the first group to call on the Obama administration to create a formal bilateral working group with Brazil. U.S. Travel also engaged others, including 104 CEOs and the Discover America Partnership, to work vigorously for a Brazil roadmap to VWP inclusion.
On average, Brazilians traveling to the United States spent upwards of $5,000 per visit in 2011; nearly twice as much as a visitor from the United Kingdom or France. Processing of Brazilian visas to the U.S. is up 58 percent over last year. The positive economic impact of adding Brazil to the VWP would be welcomed across the country – particularly in travel-heavy states like Florida, North Carolina, New York, Nevada and California, U.S. Travel said.