WASHINGTON -  U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), co-chairs of the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus and members of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced the bipartisan Visa Processing Improvement Act to address the ongoing delays in processing visas for international visitors and temporary workers. Currently, the average wait time for an appointment at a U.S. consulate for a visitor visa is over a year.

“International travelers applying for visas are facing unacceptably long wait times, often stretching to a year or longer,” said Klobuchar. “Our bill will help address backlogs and get people flying faster by increasing staff and improving service at U.S. consulates and embassies, which will bring more international travelers to attractions, restaurants, and hotels across Minnesota and the entire country.”

“Ongoing delays in visa processing are negatively impacting businesses, universities and families across Kansas and our country,” said Moran. “This straightforward, sensible bill will hold the State Department accountable for the current long wait times required to receive a visitor visa and improve the Visa Processing System for certain applicants. By modernizing the system while maintaining our national security, we can bolster the economy without compromising our safety.”

Specifically, this legislation would: 

  1. Require the State Department to set interview wait time goals and take steps to lower wait times in locations that consistently fail to achieve those goals.  
  2. Provide the State Department with permanent authority to waive in-person interviews for certain previously vetted and low-risk nonimmigrant visa applicants.
  3. Create a pilot-program to test videoconferencing as an alternative to in-person interviews for certain low-risk, pre-vetted visa applicants from Global Entry countries. 
  4. Improve the service nonimmigrant visa processing experience by providing an expedited processing fee and the opportunity to extend visitors visas while in the U.S.

As co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus, Klobuchar has long led efforts to ensure that Minnesota businesses have the workers they need. Minnesota businesses, including the tourism and forestry sectors, rely on temporary workers during their busiest seasons. Last July, she and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) urged the Biden administration to address the current green card, visa, and work permit application backlogs.

In February, Klobuchar and Moran as well as Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) called on the administration to address the ongoing delays in visa processing. 

Last year, Klobuchar received the U.S. Travel Association’s 2022 Travel Champion Award. The Travel Champion Award is an annual honor presented to Members of Congress that work to boost travel to and within the United States.

In March 2022, the Restoring Brand USA Act, Klobuchar and former Senator Roy Blunt’s bipartisan legislation to provide support for Brand USA was signed into law by President Biden. Brand USA—a public-private partnership that promotes tourism to the United States—is not funded by taxpayer money, but rather through international visitors and private sector funding.  

In December 2022, Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation with former Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), the Protecting Tourism in the United States Act, to support and promote the travel and tourism industry, was signed into law. The legislation directs the U.S. Department of Commerce, in consultation with the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and other relevant federal agencies, to study the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on different sectors of the travel and tourism industry. The bill also requires the Commerce Department to provide policy recommendations for promoting and assisting the travel and tourism industry.

In 2022, Klobuchar and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) urged the administration to combat the current green card visa, and work permit application backlogs to help with ongoing workforce shortages.