Senators Propose Travel Visa Reform

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, and Roy Blunt, Republican from Missouri, recently introduced legislation to streamline the travel visa application process to stimulate tourism.

Complicated procedures for obtaining a travel visa to the United States has hurt the domestic tourism industry, according to a news release issued by Klobuchar’s office. The United States’ overseas arrivals have fallen from 17 percent of the world total in 2000 to 12.4 percent today, while worldwide long-haul travel has increased 40 percent in the last 11 years, according to data cited by the release.

Illustrating the difficulty of obtaining a U.S. travel visa, Klobuchar’s office said it can take Brazilians 150 days to obtain documentation to travel to the United States, while they can get a visa for travel to the U.K. in 12 days. Doug Killian, the Mall of America tourism director, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune the situation is similar in China, where would-be tourists must sometimes travel for days in order to interview in-person for a U.S. visa.

To cut down on wait times and make the U.S. visa application process easier, the legislation proposes the State Department use visa fees to pay for improvements. The bill also gives the department discretion to extend already-issued tourist visas for up to three years without an in-person applicant interview.

In addition to onerous visa application requirements, U.S. tourism has been hurt by recent tough immigration laws in some states, with losses totaling an estimated $90 million in Arizona, according to Travel Weekly.