Enable Targeted Professionals and Tourists to Visit and Work in Washington State
International tourism is our state’s second largest services export (after software), at close to $4 billion annually. The Washington tourism industry – which already employs 154,500 people – would benefit significantly if it were easier for travelers from places like Brazil, Hong Kong and South Africa to visit here. International tourists represent 8.2 percent of Seattle’s total visitors, and those tourists spent $6.8 billion while here. Visa barriers also impede the success of many businesses in Washington; international customers have a difficult time traveling to our state to do business, and foreign employees of locally-based companies cannot visit their Washington offices without delays. In particular, limitations on H-1B Visas prevent Washington employers from filling vacant job roles with qualified foreign employees, reducing their productivity and competitiveness. 50,000 jobs in Washington will go unfilled by 2017, 90% of which will be STEM & Healthcare jobs. In addition, limitations to the H-2A Visa program for temporary agricultural workers prevents Washington farms from quickly hiring the number of employees they need to harvest crops or tend to livestock, severely hampering their productivity.
Congress needs to pass immigration and travel visa reforms that balance national security and important protections for our citizens with the needs of our economy.
In addition, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport must make key investments in facilities that will keep it competitive as a global transit hub. Currently the airport cannot efficiently cope with the capacity of passengers. The intercontinental passenger traffic increased 80% and international passenger traffic increased 45% since 2009, reaching 2.25 million international passengers in 2014 and making SeaTac one of the fastest growing airports. Current investments in facilities will not be enough to accommodate the 66 million passengers projected to use Sea-Tac annually within 20 years.
To learn how you can get involved in travel and work visa reform advocacy, contact Eric Schinfeld at email@example.com or 206.389.7273.