Tourism industry seeks foreigners

Congress asked to ease policy to help economy

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Nearly 7.6 million non-immigrant visas were issued in 2001, compared with fewer than 6.5 million in 2010. The number of visa applicants also dropped sharply after 2001. Those combined forces pushed the U.S. share of global travelers down to 12 percent last year, from 17 percent before 2001.

The proposed immigration overhaul has largely been driven by the U.S. Travel Association, the tourism industry’s lobbying giant, and has been endorsed by business titans such as the National Retail Federation, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Republicans and Democrats in Congress are backing the proposed changes through six bills in the House and Senate.

Geoff Freeman, the travel association’s chief operating officer, said the State Department should be required to keep visa interview wait times at a maximum of 10 days.

“Every day a person is waiting for that interview is a day a person cannot be here supporting the American economy,” he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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