International Visitors Grow the Economy and Support Jobs
President Obama visited the Baseball Hall of Fame on May 21, but the news he delivered in Cooperstown, N.Y. was as much about driving America’s economy as it was about driving in home runs.
Since May 2012, when President Obama launched his National Travel and Tourism Strategy, CBP has supported the administration’s efforts to expand the Nation’s ability to attract and welcome international visitors while maintaining the highest standards of security. Nearly 70 million travelers visited the United States in FY 2013, spending an average of $4,500 and supporting millions of American jobs.
The Baseball Hall of Fame, which draws thousands of international visitors a year, was the perfect backdrop for a progress report on the National Travel and Tourism Strategy and the President’s announcement that Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will lead an interagency team, in partnership with private industry, to improve service levels at the top 15 airports that includes reducing wait times for international travelers to the United States without sacrificing the law enforcement mission.
CBP is already on base. The agency’s resource optimization strategy is transforming the way CBP does business in land, air, and sea environments. The President called for expanding the use of Automated Passport Control (APC) from its current 15 locations to 25 by the end of 2014. Provided through public-private partnership with airport authorities, APC self-service kiosks free CBP officers from routine administrative tasks and contribute to reducing wait times for passengers using the kiosks.
The first APC program was launched last year at CBP Preclearance Vancouver for U.S. and Canadian citizens. A new generation of APC kiosks includes biometric technology that also allows their use by travelers from visa waiver countries with electronic authorization. Vancouver, Orlando, and Austin Orlando International Airports are currently processing visa waiver travelers and CBP will continue to expand the APC biometric function to additional locations.
The President also highlighted CBP’s Trusted Traveler programs, particularly Global Entry, which now has more than 1.5 million members and is adding thousands each month. Global Entry kiosks, now located at 41 U.S. airports and 11 preclearance locations, allow expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk international travelers upon their arrival into the United States. The first-ever, co-located enrollment site for CBP’s Global Entry and the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck Trusted Travel Program opened this month at Pittsburgh International Airport.
APC and Global Entry expansion, as well as agency innovations such as the automation of the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, are frequently discussed at the meetings CBP holds with representatives from the travel and tourism industry. These meetings, held regularly at national and local levels, provide an opportunity to discuss local objectives, measure success, and solve local and regional challenges. While trade and travel facilitation will never be implemented at the expense of CBP’s law enforcement mission, CBP shares the President’s overall goal of making the United States a more secure and welcoming country for international travelers.
President Obama also noted that public-private partnerships help CBP defray the costs associated with meeting increased requests for services and the funding of frontline overtime expenses. Section 560 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 allowed CBP to enter into five partnerships to provide new or enhanced services on a reimbursable basis. These were implemented at the end of last year.
This year, Congress approved a five-year pilot program that allows CBP to enter into public-private partnerships for certain reimbursable service and to accept certain donations. CBP also received appropriated funds to hire 2,000 additional CBP officers. These new recruits will help ensure that the safety and security of our Nation will always come first, but this extra “bench strength” also enables CBP to fulfill the President’s mandate of ensuring that the travel experience continues to be welcoming, friendly, and efficient.