TAMPA — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on Wednesday called for Florida business people to support an immigration reform bill the Senate passed this summer that contains provisions to expedite visa programs for international visitors. The Tampa Democrat said it would be up to the House of Representatives to determine whether it would approve the bipartisan Senate bill, or whether the House might take up the immigration bill on a piece-meal basis. The Jobs Originating through Launching Travel Act (JOLT) provision would reform visa laws to enable international visitors in countries including Israel, Chile and Brazil that are not members of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program to gain quicker access to visas through expedited processing. In addition, the JOLT provision proposes using technology such as video conferencing to minimize lack of access residents of foreign countries have to a U.S. consulate for an in-person interview, a major hurdle for potential visitors.
“The JOLT Act would create jobs and boost the tourism economy,” Castor said in a news conference at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. U.S. tourism officials have said global long-distance travel has increased 52 percent over the past decade, but the United States has gained just 2 percent of the increase, with outdated visa processing a formidable problem. However, the fate of the immigration bill, and whether JOLT may be considered separately, remains unknown at this time, Castor acknowledged. House Republican opposition to immigration reform continues to grow. U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlattee of Virginia, the chairman of the Judiciary Commttee, told a town hall gathering Monday the House must chart its own course on immigration even if President Obama would not approve the legislation. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7817