The U.S. has begun the process of expanding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to include Brazil, a rapidly growing market for tourism to the U.S., and one that has been plagued by persistent backlogs in visa processing.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, on a formal visit to Brazil, signed an agreement with Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota to establish a Visa Waiver Program Working Group to begin the process. The U.S. delegation also reached agreements with Brazil on civil aviation security, customs enforcement and the prevention of human trafficking.

The VWP allows citizens of 36 countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa, and those countries grant the reciprocal right to U.S. travelers.

Bringing Brazil into the program has been a top priority for the U.S. Travel Association and other industry advocates. U.S. Travel President Roger Dow welcomed the move, calling it "a significant step in laying out the necessary work stream to advance Brazil's inclusion as a Visa Waiver Program country."

He also urged Congress to pass the JOLT Act (Jobs Originated through Launching Travel), which would facilitate further expansion of the VWP program and make other reforms to the visa and entry process.

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