The US Travel Association is calling on President Barack Obama to include visa reforms in a key jobs speech to Congress.

Calls to reform the complex US visa system with an expansion of the visa waiver programme have come as part of lobbying efforts to improve entry restrictions for international travellers.

US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said: “It’s not often Washington sees consensus, but the call to create jobs by reforming the US visa system is coming from across the nation.

“We greatly appreciate the support for visa reform by the US Conference of Mayors and US Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to working with them as we urge the President and Congress to make these much-needed changes to create much-needed jobs.”

The US Travel Association believes reform of the visa system would recapture America’s share of worldwide overseas travel, create an additional 1.3 million jobs by 2020 and produce $859 billion in cumulative additional economic output.

US Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive Thomas Donohue urged leaders to welcome more tourists and business visitors, saying: “Now is the time to make travel to the United States more convenient and welcoming.

“We must expand the visa waiver programme and reform and streamline the visa application process to ensure a consistent, predictable, fair, and timely process without compromising security.

“We should implement trusted travellers programmes that speed through low-risk travellers who submit to a comprehensive screening and pay a fee. Wait times at customs should not exceed 30 minutes.”

The US Conference of Mayors said: “A burdensome US visa system drives millions of potential travellers to other countries at an enormous cost to our economy.

“Between 2000 and 2010, the world travel market grew by more than 60 million annual travellers. Yet, in 2010 the US welcomed essentially the same number of travellers as it did in 2000.

“Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to reform the visa waiver programme. The Department of Homeland Security is working on a new method of collecting visa overstay data, which is necessary to advance the legislation.”