Business travelers may have additional obstacles to overcome when traveling to Europe. The EU is pushing for reinstatement of a visa program for American travelers. If the visa program goes into effect, then organizations will have to plan accordingly for travel documents, including visas, and will have to measure the impact of such visa travel.

A Call for Visa Restrictions

On March 2, 2017, the EU's Parliament approved a measure for the European Commission to reinstate visa restrictions on U.S. travelers when visiting European countries, as early as the summer of 2017, reports Reuters. This call for reinstatement is in response to the United States' requirement that, before traveling, citizens from Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Cyprus secure visas. Citizens from the remaining 23 EU-member states may enter the U.S. through the Visa Waiver Program.

The EU stresses equal treatment of all of its member states, notes CNN. As such, the EU urged the U.S., Australia, Japan, Canada and Brunei to alter their visa requirements for certain EU member states in 2014, giving each country a two-year period to resolve such visa reciprocity issues before adverse action was taken by the EU, expiring in April 2016. All countries besides the United States have since become reciprocal, with the latest being Canada, which will be lifting its visa requirements on Dec. 1, 2017, reports NPR.

According to Reuters, the EU's Parliament set a deadline in May to impose visas if the United States has not changed its position. However, a planned ministerial meeting between the U.S. and the EU will occur on June 15, 2017, in attempt to resolve this issue. If action is taken this summer, the visa program will initially be temporary, according to the EU, and as reported by CNN. The goal is to have full visa reciprocity between the EU and the United States.

How Travel Would Be Impacted

Travel would be impacted on both sides of the pond. Travel Weekly reports that if the EU did require all North Americans to travel with visas, Europe could experience 5.5 million fewer visitors and a $7.5 billion loss in travel to its economy. However, North America would suffer similar losses as a result of a visa war with the EU. According to Travel Weekly, North America could experience 2.4 million fewer visitors from the EU and more than a $6 billion loss in travel to its economy.

How Business Travel Would Be Impacted

According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the EU visa restriction imposition would negatively affect business travel, which alone accounted for approximately $1.2 trillion in global spending in 2015. In 2016, U.S. business travel spending was expected to increase by 1.9 percent to $295.7 billion, according to GBTA.

With this steady increase, finance leaders must manage the expenses in their corporate global travel programs, including gaining insight to efficiencies and trends in reconciliations and reporting. If the visa restriction program became effective, finance leaders would have to manage not only additional visa application expenses, but the time expenses associated with the backlog of obtaining visas.

According to the European Parliament, the European Commission estimates that approximately 10 million visa applications would need to be issued to U.S. citizens annually to travel to Europe, up from 120,000 annually. Because of this, the time-cost of this process must be measured by finance leaders in determining global business and relationships. Projections, as stated above, are reflecting that travel to Europe will decrease as a direct result of the implementation of this visa program. Thus, the visa restriction could create a lasting, negative impact on business travel between Europe and the United States.

The result of this visa program could be prolonged negotiation between the U.S. and the EU to avoid some of the economic issues set forth above, or adverse action may be taken by implementing visa programs, with the ultimate desire to drive full visa reciprocity. This is an issue that finance leaders must keep an eye on, as it could affect business travel to Europe.

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Tags: compliance legislation global