Travel Groups Back Global Entry-Expanding INVITE Act
A new bill meant to make entry into the U.S. a little more convenient for visitors was introduced in the Senate this month, and travel groups are cheering it on.
The Global Entry program is definitely a hit, based on sheer numbers, and a new bill aims to expand its reach even further.
The INVITE Act, a bill introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Tim Scott (R-SC), would expand the program and streamline processes that often make traveling into the United States a bit of a pain. For one thing, travelers would be able to simultaneously apply for a U.S. visa and sign up for the Global Entry program, and the program would add additional reporting to the customs process.
The measure is part of a suite covering various aspects of the travel experience. The other two bills expand funding for tourism efforts with tribal organizations and funding for Hawaii.
But the INVITE Act is clearly the standout, and it has drawn significant support from a number of trade groups, including the U.S. Travel Association, Airports Council International-North America, and American Society of Travel Agents.
ASTA’s support represents a departure, according to Travel Market Report: The organization has traditionally focused on outbound travel. But the rise of international travel into the U.S. could prove a boon for travel agents, ASTA’s Eben Peck told the publication.
“We think if that many people come here they would use the services of domestic agents around the U.S.,” Peck said.
U.S. Travel, meanwhile, said the bill would make “tremendous progress” toward addressing the problem of long lines during the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) entry process for international travelers.
“By pairing Global Entry sign-up with applying for a visa or a passport, we would greatly expand a program that has already been a huge success for streamlining entry,” U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “And applying metrics to the entry process is critical to improving the experience for arriving passengers.”
The bill offers a degree of validation to Global Entry, a trusted-traveler program that started in 2008 and has allowed more than 1 million travelers to enter the U.S. through the use of a kiosk—in exchange for the sharing of personal information. It also comes months after more than 80 businesses and trade groups, including ASAE, asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ease the customs process.
(photo via the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Twitter page)