Quigley, Rice Introduce JOLT Act to Expand International Tourism to the U.S. & Increase National Security
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Tom Rice (SC-07), introduced the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, a bipartisan effort to increase national security, reform outdated visa laws, spur tourism and create jobs.
The JOLT Act of 2018 importantly renames the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership Program, which better reflects the mutual benefits shared by the U.S. and partner countries. Additionally, the bill allows for an expansion of the program by incentivizing intelligence sharing and the modernization of travel infrastructure, both of which are critical to U.S. national security.
“As Members of Congress, we want two things: to keep our constituents safe from harm and help them achieve the American Dream,” said Rep. Quigley. “The JOLT Act accomplishes both of those objectives by stimulating economic activity and improving national security. By updating outdated visa laws, we can drive tourism and job growth in our cities and assist the U.S. intelligence community with their mission to spot and stop terrorist threats.”
“The JOLT Act will enhance our economic competitiveness and strengthen national security by modernizing the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which facilitates streamlined travel into the United States for pre-approved travelers from member countries,” said Rep. Rice. “Expanding the VWP will support the U.S. travel industry, create American jobs, and bring more tourism dollars to South Carolina- all while bolstering our homeland security and counterterrorism efforts.”
In 2016, 22 million people traveled to the U.S. from Visa Waiver Program countries, accounting for 59% of overseas arrivals to the U.S. Travelers from these countries generated more than $90 billion for the U.S. economy, accounting for 44% of travel exports to all overseas countries.
“International inbound travel is essential to U.S. economic growth and improving our trade balance,” said U.S. Travel Association Senior Vice President for Government Relations Tori Barnes. “The JOLT Act‘s measures—notably adjustments to the Visa Waiver Program that include its renaming to the Secure Travel Partnership Program—will help facilitate and welcome millions of qualified visitors, while enhancing national security.”
In order to protect the homeland and ensure VWP countries adhere to U.S. security standards, the JOLT Act requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to enforce security requirements that were previously considered discretionary. Among the requirements for program countries are:
- maintaining high level airport security standards,
- assisting in the operation of an effective air marshal program,
- maintaining the highest level of security standards when issuing of passports and travel documents,
- cooperating with the United States' initiatives toward combating terrorism, and
- cooperating with the United States intelligence community in sharing information regarding terrorist threats.
The Secretary is required to report to Congress on each VWP country’s adherence to these provisions.
Since biometric or e-passports are the most secure travel documents available, the JOLT Act also closes an electronic passport requirement loophole that previously allowed citizens of the 27 counties participating in the VWP before 2008 to use non-electronic passports if those passports were issued before October 2006. The JOLT Act would require that all individuals from program countries use e-passports.
Rep. Quigley has been a staunch advocate for expanding the VWP. He first spearheaded bipartisan and bicameral legislation with Senator Kirk and Rep. Lipinski in 2011. In January 2012, Rep. Quigley traveled to Poland to discuss ways to further enhance the U.S.-Polish partnership, including advancing the VWP legislation, and testified before Congress on the benefits of including Poland and other diplomatic partners in the program. Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District is home to approximately 100,000 citizens of Polish ancestry. More than one million Poles call the Chicago area home, the highest concentration of any city outside of Warsaw.