Rice introduces bipartisan bill to jolt America’s national security, upgrade visa laws

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) has unveiled bipartisan legislation that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to stimulate international tourism to the United States while also improving America’s anti-terrorism efforts.

The Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, H.R. 6618, introduced on July 26 by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) with Rep. Rice the lead Republican cosponsor of the bill, would rename the federal Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership Program to better reflect the program’s mutual benefits for the United States and partner countries.

Additionally, H.R. 6618 would expand the program by incentivizing intelligence sharing and upgrading travel infrastructure, both of which are critical to U.S. national security, according to a statement released by the lawmakers.

“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.”

Rep. Quigley added that H.R. 6618 will “keep our constituents safe from harm and help them achieve the American Dream … 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“By updating outdated visa laws, we can drive tourism and job growth in our cities and assist the U.S. intelligence community with their mission to spot and stop terrorist threats,” said Rep. Quigley.

If enacted, H.R. 6618 would require the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to enforce security requirements that were previously considered discretionary. Among the requirements program countries would have to follow include: maintaining high airport security standards; supporting operation of an effective air marshal program; and cooperating with the United States to fight terrorism by sharing terrorist threat information, according to a summary of the bill from the lawmakers.

“International inbound travel is essential to U.S. economic growth and improving our trade balance,” said Tori Barnes, senior vice president for government relations at the U.S. Travel Association, which supports H.R. 6618.

“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,” Barnes said.

H.R. 6618 has been referred to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for consideration.