By Nina Long
CNN • Updated 11th June 2017
(CNN) — International arrivals in the U.S. are rising sharply, according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who says the administration’s tougher restrictions on travel to the U.S. are having their intended effect.
Ross made the announcement at the World Travel & Tourism Council in Madrid on Wednesday, where he called the July 1 implementation of the “visa waiver” and “visa processing directive” the “first major economic action” taken by the Trump administration.
Trump has called on countries to take in more refugees or lose the right to receive the Global Entry program, which offers expedited processing at U.S. airports, to U.S. citizens.
Ross was reported by CNN as saying that the U.S. government has been inundated with applications from countries vying to secure Global Entry status. He said the administration will soon announce criteria for the program, which is in the process of being re-evaluated.
Fifty-three countries were subject to Global Entry status — which allows U.S. citizens to use trusted prescreening centers to bypass airport security checkpoints — until January 1, 2017.
Since then, nine new countries have been added to the list, including Argentina, Bulgaria, Germany, India, Israel, Panama, Peru, Serbia and Switzerland.
In another directive announced in May, Trump ordered the Justice Department to review all visa waiver agreements “to ensure that U.S. immigration and customs laws are not being violated by any non-U.S. citizen resident.”
Countries that have agreements that grant access to the U.S. to people with passports of the countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program — such as Mexico, Italy, France, and Japan — are affected.
Ross said the U.S. government has identified 18 countries that do not meet the standards. Those countries and their passport holders will no longer be eligible for the program starting July 1.
Each of the 18 nations will be able to apply for temporary waivers at the U.S. Consulate in their home country — a process that can take up to 120 days.
In the meantime, they can continue to have their citizens, on a case-by-case basis, check in with the Global Entry center in the U.S.
Travel and tourism stakeholders expressed relief to The New York Times this week after Ross said they would be exempt from the new visa policy.
“We have always thought that the visa restrictions might have a short-term negative impact on tourism, but we don’t believe that they will have a long-term negative impact on the U.S. economy,” said Mogens Jensen, chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council, in a statement posted to the organization’s website.
“The plan we have been advised of is to start rerouting those citizens from the visa waiver countries who wish to travel to the U.S., whilst ensuring that it does not cause the cancellation of any existing travel arrangements and preventing the cancellation of travel between the U.S. and other destination countries.”