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Tear Down the Wall!

Tear Down the Wall!

Perhaps the most powerful argument for eliminating
visa requirements is that they’re simply a hassle,
a form of diplomatic harassment that really can no longer be justified.
By Philip Miszewski

The time to eliminate visa requirements between the United States and Brazil is long
overdue. Old curtains of cultural isolation that once opened only annually to allow for
lustful pursuit of Carnaval pleasures hang like a pall before the window of a brighter
future. Brazil desperately needs tourist dollars, particularly in the impoverished
Northeast where climate and other factors conspire against other forms of significant
economic development. Moreover, the world needs to know Brazil, with its rich tapestry of
cultural diversity and penchant for holding onto happiness in the face of overwhelming
challenges.

Increasing international investment in the South and Southeast of Brazil, and movement
in the direction of free trade between all the nations of the Western Hemisphere adds
further impetus and urgency to the need for facilitating freer movement of people between
our two great nations. The unnecessary inconvenience of a visa requirement symbolizes an
inherent lack of trust, threatens to strangle the lucrative potential for generating
tourist income and undermines stated US free trade goals. And what purpose beyond limiting
the duration of a visitor’s stay does a visa serve?

Americans traveling to Brazil leave bushels of US dollars fueling service industries
and the growth of cottage industries featuring hand crafted goods. The sale of handicrafts
in the Northeast is a major source of income for many peasants who specialize in lacework,
leather goods and stone carvings. Brazilians traveling to the United States discover, and
return with a fondness for, "the good life" that North Americans would like to
see permanently rooted throughout the New World. Tourism in New York, Miami, Washington
DC, Boston and Los Angeles wouldn’t be so robust without Brazilian tourist dollars.
Brazilians rank near the top, if not at the top, in terms of dollars spent per foreign
tourist in the Big Apple. And, at least in Miami, Brazilian investment dollars are having
an impact on the purchase of business real estate. But perhaps the most powerful argument
for eliminating visa requirements is that they’re simply a "hassle", a form of
diplomatic harassment that really can no longer be justified. There is no visa requirement
between the United States and Mexico, in spite of concerns related to illegal immigration
and drug trafficking.

I recently visited the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website (http://travel.state.gov/foreignentryreqs.html)
for "Foreign Entry Requirements", April 2000. Data there makes the US/Brazil
mutual visa requirement relationship difficult to understand. The entire list of New World
countries that require tourist visas for US travelers are Brazil, Cuba, El Salvador and
Suriname. Panama will accept either a tourist card or a visa for tourists. Some places
that don’t require tourist visas do require visas for other reasons, although that doesn’t
appear to be a general rule. Jamaica, for instance, requires a visa for business and/or
study.

US tourists to Guyana and Jamaica can stay indefinitely without the need for a visa, in
the Bahamas for eight months and for six months in Antigua & Barbuda, Canada,
Dominica, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, the Virgin Islands and the
British West Indies. Argentina, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the
French West Indies Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Saint
Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela will accept
US tourists for up to 90 days without visas.

In the Dominican Republic two months is allowable and Belize, Bolivia and Colombia are
good for one. The Netherlands Antilles offers a modest 14 days, but that two-week period
is extendable to three months. Two of the seven islands in the French West Indies,
Martinique and Guadeloupe, don’t even require a passport from US citizens for tourist or
business stays of up to two weeks, provided they can show proof of U.S. citizenship and a
photo ID.

Its not that there aren’t issues between nations that warrant some level of control as
citizens pass into or out of one another. Mexico and Venezuela, for instance, have tourist
card requirements. But a tourist card for Venezuela can be obtained from airlines serving
Venezuela without a charge. It can’t be extended, but a multiple-entry visa valid up to a
year, and extendible, can be obtained from any Venezuelan Consulate for a $30 fee. It
requires completion of an application form, a photo, a copy of an onward/return ticket,
proof of sufficient funds and certification of employment.

Venezuelan business visas can be obtained for $60 with a need letter from the company
stating the purpose of the trip and accepting responsibility for the traveler, along with
the names and addresses of any companies to be visited there. So special consideration can
be given to address exceptional circumstances without severely discouraging tourist travel
that offers economic and social advantages to both parties. Tourism, at a minimum, should
be facilitated with relative ease. And, in light of the fact that we seem to be seeing
development of a New World free trade zone, it seems that the Western Hemisphere’s two
giants would benefit from facilitating relative ease of business travel.

Brazil is a large and, in some areas of enterprise, potentially intimidating
competitor. Without accusing anyone of impropriety, I would like to assert that visa
requirements should not be allowed to grow out of trade disputes, and should never be used
as instruments of punishment in foreign relations between friendly nations. After all,
visa requirements are always reciprocal. If the United States punishes another nation by
requiring that each of its citizens traveling here have a visa, then each of its own
citizens will likewise need a visa to enter that other country.

It is in the national interest of the United States to encourage Brazilian economic
prosperity as it institutionalizes democratic principles and privately owned free
enterprise. Brazil has emerged from its chrysalis, and the United States would do well to
welcome it into the light of nations. The United States should unilaterally offer to drop
its visa requirement for Brazilian citizens, and petition Brazil to reciprocate as soon as
is reasonably possible.

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