NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Visa Restrictions Worry Florida Tourism Industry

January 2, 2003

A federal proposal to change certain foreign visas that allow a six-month stay in the United States to only 30 days sent a chill through businesses in Florida catering to tourists and those with a second home there.

  • About 8 million international tourists visit the Sunshine State a year.
  • Many foreigners view Florida as their second home.
  • And thousands of them arrive this time of year to spend winter in this balmy climate.
  • In all, the Florida Association of Realtors found that foreigners own about 75,000 properties in the state. That figure is conservative, the group says.

Foreign travelers are big business, and not just in the winter. The U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism says 939,000 foreign visitors stayed more than 30 days in 2000, the latest year figures are available. They added an estimated $2.1 billion to the economy.

Federal immigration officials said the 30-day limit would keep out potential terrorists and make U.S. borders more secure. But critics, including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, said security would be more improved by screening for terrorists rather than shortening the visits of travelers from overseas.

Source: Deborah Sharp, "Plan to Shorten Visas Brings Outcry From Florida Businesses, Others Say Proposed 30-day Limit on Visitors' Stays Will Chill Sales," USA Today, December 30, 2002.


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