The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a program that would allow foreigners to apply for a United States visa via video conferencing, reports the New York Times.
The program will now be allowed to move forward for full Senate approval. Mary Landrieu, Democratic senator from Louisiana, spearheaded the effort. One of her aids states that, if approved, the program would be implemented over a two-year period.
The aim of the video conferencing program is to eliminate cost-prohibitive travel to U.S. consulates in other countries for visitors seeking to enter the United States. For instance, according to the Times, a person living in Manaus, Brazil - a city with daily non-stop air travel to the United States - would need to travel more than 1,300 miles to the nearest Brazilian U.S. consulate to apply for a visa in person.
"The beauty of video conferencing is it uses technology and other resources we have today to balance travelers' interests, economic interests and national security interests," Geoff Freeman, senior vice president for public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association, told the paper. "If you do it right, it increases security and you can save money at the same time."
Video conferencing is finding numerous new uses among government agencies. For example, prisons across several states have begun using the technology to conduct court hearings without moving prisoners from their cell blocks.