Jan 19 2012

Bipartisan Provision Co-Sponsored By Senators Blunt, Klobuchar Included In President’s Tourism Announcement

KANSAS CITY, MO. – U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) praised President Barack Obama’s announcement today that the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security are advancing a key provision that was originally included in the Senators’ bipartisan legislation, which is designed to increase international tourism to the United States.

The provision – which is part of the “International Tourism Facilitation Act” that was introduced by Klobuchar and Blunt in October 2011 – would allow the Secretary of State to ease restrictions on certain foreign tourist visas that prevent travelers from taking frequent vacations to the United States while maintaining strict security standards.

“This is an important step in the right direction, and I’m very pleased that the president has included this key provision as part of his announcement today. The international travel industry has grown by 40 percent over the past decade, but America’s share of the international travel market has remained stagnant,” said Blunt. “By streamlining our visa processing system without jeopardizing our nation’s security, we can help spur economic development and jumpstart job creation in Missouri and across America.”

“From hotels and restaurants to local retail shops and recreation sites, tourism is a powerful engine for job creation in Minnesota and across the country,” Klobuchar said. “This announcement advancing our legislation will help reduce the red tape currently restricting growth in our tourism sector, creating greater opportunities for countless American businesses.”

President Obama announced that the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security will advance the Senators’ provision to grant a waiver of up to three additional years – equaling four years total. This move would expand the period for foreign visitors to renew their tourist visas without requiring the tourist to undergo another in-person interview.

The Klobuchar-Blunt legislation would help alleviate excessively long wait times for international travelers to receive U.S. visas, facilitating more frequent visits to America and boost local economies while still ensuring national security. The “International Tourism Facilitation Act” would also incentivize the State Department to improve the visa process by allowing the Department to reinvest fees charged for visas if the Department improves the efficiency with which it processes visas.

Klobuchar and Blunt are the Chairman and Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion, which oversees the nation’s travel and tourism industry. They also serve as co-chairs of the U.S. Senate Tourism Caucus.