Direct from the Senate website, here are some more specifics:
• Promote Chinese Tourism. Currently, Chinese nationals must apply for a new U.S. visa every year, while travelers from other countries can receive up to 10-year multiple entry visas. The bill would allow Chinese tourists access to 5-year multiple-entry visitor visas, in order to eliminate this significant disincentive to visiting the U.S. A recent report showed that the average Chinese visitor to the U.S. spends $6,000.
• Expedite Priority Visitors. Currently, many people of means do not travel to the U.S. because of the waiting time for a visa. The VISIT-USA Act will allow the State Department to charge an extra fee to expedite the processing of visas.
• Introduce Technology Into the Visa System. The VISIT-USA Act authorizes the Secretary of State to conduct a videoconference pilot program as a method for conducting visa interviews of foreign national applicants. The move would eliminate red tape and make visa processing more efficient.
• Encourage Canadian Tourism. The VISIT-USA Act creates a new “Canadian retiree visa” (non-immigrant visa) that allows Canadians who are over age 50 who can show that they own a residence in the U.S. or have purchased rental or hotel accommodations in the U.S. for the duration of their stay to get a visa that lasts 240 days and is renewable every three years.
• Encourage U.S. Travel During Low Season. One of the greatest contributing factors to high visa demand is the summer travel season. Given that visa interview wait times typically lengthen during the summer months, this bill permits the State Department to lower visa application fees during off-peak season to give travelers the incentive to apply for visas when demand is lower.
The bill has some pretty powerful allies in Washington. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Travel Association, and even the U.S. Olympic Committee all support the bill, as does billionaire Warren Buffett.
The mindset behind the legislation is no secret: If Americans can’t or won’t buy U.S. homes, why not open the nation’s housing market to foreigners with deep pockets?
There’s no saying whether the bill will pass (although its prospects appear favorable), but whatever side of the political fence you lean on, you have to give Schumer and Lee points for creativity.