The Discover America Partnership is touting a new study that shows significant benefits to implementing a $10 visa waiver fee for visitors to the U.S. coming from England, France, Germany, and the 24 other “visa waiver countries.” The money from the proposed fee, the study says, could help to promote travel to the U.S. and fund border security enhancements.

Discover America Partnership, a Washington, D.C.–based advocacy group that seeks to improve America’s image abroad and to promote travel to the U.S., also supports the addition of 10 nations to the list of 27 countries that now participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. (Legislation to expand the program passed the Senate in March and is awaiting House action.) The VWP allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the U.S. using only a passport, as opposed to a visa, which requires a more involved application process and a thorough background check.

The study, prepared for Discover America Partnership by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company, cites a number of benefits the U.S. would see within three years of expanding the VWP and launching new security and promotional efforts funded by the $10 visa waiver fee:

  • Increase overseas travel to the U.S. by 1.6 billion new visitors per year,
  • Yield $8 billion in new visitor spending,
  • Yield $850 million in new federal tax revenue, and
  • Generate an average of $200 million in fee revenue per year, including $100 million per year to fund security improvements.

In a statement advocating the proposed reforms, Gov. Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security Secretary and paid consultant for the Discover America Partnership, said, “Securing our nation’s borders and facilitating travel are not mutually exclusive. Our borders are the intersection of security and prosperity. We must have the will to eliminate inefficiencies and build the most secure and traveler-friendly entry process possible.”

According to the Discover America Partnership, U.S. travel has declined 17 percent since 2000, with the cost of the decline to the U.S. economy exceeding $100 billion in lost visitor spending, almost 200,000 jobs, and $16 billion in lost tax receipts.