WASHINGTON — Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) issued a statement Monday that she has cosponsored legislation that will expand the Visa Waiver Program in order to increase the number of foreign tourists traveling from abroad to such places as Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Reno and other destinations in the Silver State.
“Job creation should be our top priority and promoting tourism — Nevada’s largest industry — will help put people back to work and get our economy on track,” Berkley said in an email. “Increasing foreign travel through the Visa Waiver Program will ensure that Nevada’s cities remain among the top tourist destinations in the world.”
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows foreign nationals from participating countries up to 90 days of visa-free travel to the United States. Currently, 36 countries are eligible for visa-free travel under the program. Nearly 18 million tourists entered the United States under this program in 2010, a figure that represents 44% of all overseas visitors. Berkley is seeking to increase the number of nations that take part in the program as a means to encourage more travelers to visit Nevada. Nations that could benefit from the Visa Waiver bill include: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Poland.
The legislation cosponsored by Berkley would also enhance national security by encouraging the sharing of information between member countries and requiring that lost or stolen passports be reported in a timely manner. In addition, participants in the Visa Waiver Program are required to maintain enhanced counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards. Enhanced security procedures in the VWP enable DHS to determine, prior to travel, whether a VWP traveler poses a security risk to the U.S.