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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Proposing a Bill To Simplify the Entry of Foreign Visitors

February 23, 1968

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)

I ask the Congress to eliminate unnecessary and cumbersome barriers which inhibit foreign visitors and businessmen from traveling to the United States.

Over a half century ago we began to require each foreign visitor to obtain a visa from an American Consul abroad.

This process of pre-screening obliges every visitor--other than a national of Canada or Mexico--to establish to the satisfaction of the Consul:

--that he is not ineligible for a visa under some 25 specified grounds of eligibility;

--that he has a residence abroad to which he intends to return;

--that he will not accept employment while in the United States.

Those requirements have been rendered obsolete by a major increase in tourism from abroad, by a revolutionary reduction in travel time, and by the fact that 35 other nations require no visas from American tourists.

This system clearly must be reformed.

Last Monday, I received a report from my special Industry-Government Commission on Travel. The report outlined a broad program to increase tourism to the United States, improving our balance of payments and promoting international understanding.

With regard to these entry requirements, the Commission stated:

"Present entry procedures for vacation and business visitors to the United States are outmoded. They serve only to project an adverse image of this nation's willingness to receive foreign guests."

By imposing time-consuming entry requirements, we discourage tourism to the United States at a time when we are acutely concerned with our balance of payments.

By imposing stringent requirements, we appear to a foreign visitor to be greeting him grudgingly rather than graciously.

By imposing complicated requirements, we add an unnecessary and increasingly expensive workload to our consulate staffs abroad.

I believe the time has come to stop imposing these unnecessary requirements on our visitors. To accomplish this, I propose the Non-immigrant Visa Act of 1968.

This Act would authorize the Secretary of State and the Attorney General to issue regulations exempting visitors to the United States for 90 days or less from the visa requirement and from all but the most serious grounds of ineligibility. Under the Act:

--The Secretary of State would designate the countries whose citizens would be entitled to this privilege. Initially, this would be done on the basis of reciprocity.

--Foreign nationals who have been convicted of serious crimes, or narcotics traffickers, will still be barred.

--Entering aliens will continue to be examined by immigration and naturalization service officers at points of entry. This will afford full protection to our internal security.

--Persons entering under these conditions will be required to have a valid passport, and a non-refundable round-trip ticket. They will not be allowed to alter their status as a visitor while they are in this country.

This new Act will improve our foreign relations and promote a better understanding of America throughout the world.

It will improve our balance of payments and strengthen the dollar.

It will allow us to treat travelers from abroad more efficiently and more hospitably.

With the cooperation of private industry, the government is seeking new ways to attract more visitors to our shores in 1968. This new Act can be a vital part of that effort.

The Secretary of State will shortly send to the Congress further recommendations to improve our non-immigrant visa laws.

I consider the proposals in this letter to be of urgent concern. I ask the Congress to give them prompt and favorable consideration.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The proposed legislation was not enacted by the 90th Congress.

For a statement by the President upon receiving the report of the Industry-Government Special Task Force on Travel, see Item 83.
The letter was released at Austin, Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Proposing a Bill To Simplify the Entry of Foreign Visitors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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