Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) today announced that the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security are advancing a key provision in their bipartisan legislation, the International Tourism Facilitation Act, designed to increase international tourism to the United States. Klobuchar also announced today that two Minnesotans she nominated to serve on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory board have been appointed by the President, and that the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has been selected to participate in its Global Entry program – an initiative which cuts down clearance times at U.S. customs checkpoints for pre-approved, low-risk international travelers.

International Tourism Facilitation Act Advanced

President Obama today announced that the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security will be advancing a provision in the Klobuchar-Blunt legislation to grant a waiver of up to three additional years (four years total) that would expand the period for foreign visitors to renew their tourist visas without requiring the tourist to undergo another in-person interview. Today travelers go through a complicated process often involving long trips to U.S. embassies and consulates every year they want to take a vacation in the United States. Lengthening this renewal period would facilitate more frequent vacations to America by these tourists and boost local economies while still ensuring national security.

“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.”

“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.”

The Klobuchar-Blunt legislation would also help alleviate excessively long wait times for international travelers to receive U.S. visas. In countries such as Brazil, it can take up to 150 days to obtain a United States visa, while it takes Brazilian citizens approximately 12 days to receive a similar visa to the United Kingdom. The International Tourism Facilitation Act would 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.

Two Minnesotans Appointed to U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board

Klobuchar also announced that two Minnesotans she nominated have been appointed to serve on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Maureen Bausch, Executive Vice President of Business Development and the Mall of America, and Hubert Joly, President and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson Companies, will both serve two year terms on the Board, which advises the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States.

“Maureen and Hubert are both leaders in Minnesota’s tourism industry and have spearheaded the effort to increase international tourism to the state and lift up local businesses,” Klobuchar said.“I am confident that they will represent Minnesota well.”

“Mall of America thanks Senator Klobuchar for her strong leadership promoting international tourism to the United States,” Bausch said."The Senator understands the importance of streamlining visa procedures for international visitors from China, Brazil and India, which will result in increased tourism-related spending in this country and the creation of thousands of jobs. Of Mall of America’s 42 million annual visitors 7 percent are from international markets and that number continues to grow. I am pleased to be appointed to the board to work with Senator Klobuchar in the effort to increase support for international tourism to our country.”

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration on the facilitation of international travel to the United States as a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board appointed today by U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson,” said Joly.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Selected for Global Entry Program

The Administration has also selected the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to participate in its Global Entry program aimed at cutting down clearance times at U.S. customs for pre-approved, low-risk international travelers. The program allows frequent international travelers who have passed a background check use of an automated kiosk to clear passport control, and provides an expedited exit lane out of the CBP processing area.

“The Global Entry program will help reduce unnecessary delays for international travelers without compromising airport security, helping make Minnesota a premier destination for foreign tourists,” Klobuchar said.“This is good news for the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and local businesses across the state.”

International tourism plays an important role in creating U.S. jobs and boosting local economies.  In Minnesota, tourism is the fifth largest industry in the state, generating $11 billion in annual sales and providing nearly 11% of total private sector employment. In 2010, each overseas visitor to the United States spent an average of $4,000 during their stay and the tourism sector supported 7.5 million American jobs.

Klobuchar chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion, which oversees the U.S. tourism industry. She also co-chairs the Senate Tourism Caucus.