North America

US Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance applauds new legislation to address visa delays

The US Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) has welcomed the introduction of the Visa Processing Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) that would address the long visitor visa appointment wait times that are significantly harming the business events sector.

“We welcome today’s legislation as it brings much-needed solutions to the prolonged visa delays faced by our friends and partners overseas, particularly in Mexico, India, and Brazil,” said Hervé Sedky, international exhibition organiser Emerald’s president and CEO and chair of the ECA board of directors. “Such restrictions inhibited American business event organisers from welcoming buyers back to their events in the United States.” 

“The legislation opens the doors to welcome back numerous international exhibitors, attendees, and buyers to US events, revitalising access to essential customer bases and unlocking opportunities,” Sedky continued. The impact of these delays has been far-reaching, especially on small businesses, representing 80% of the exhibitor base within the events industry. With the enactment of this legislation, a promising future awaits as we pave the way for growth and progress, where US businesses can continue to thrive.”

The Visa Processing Improvement Act proposes to improve visa processing within the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in four important ways:

  • increasing consular office flexibility and capacity
  • improving transparency and accountability
  • revising in-person interview waiver eligibility
  • improving the service experience.

“Unacceptable visa delays continue to hold back the industry’s otherwise remarkable rebound,” said Vinnie Polito (pictured), Society of Independent Show Organisers CEO and ECA co-president. “From setting clear goals for interview wait times to introducing new modernised processes, the Visa Processing Improvement Act would improve visa operations at US embassies and consulates around the world and help our international stakeholders get back to business in the US”

Introduction of the Visa Processing Improvement Act is the latest development in Congress’ increased action on visa delay-related issues. In recent weeks, both the US Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriations addressed visa processing concerns in their respective State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs legislation. Additionally, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations held an oversight subcommittee hearing where the impacts of visa delays on the business events sector were front and centre.

“Exhibitions mean business nationwide and around the world,” said David DuBois, International Association of Exhibitions and Events president and CEO and ECA co-president. “ECA would like to thank Senators Amy Klobuchar and Jerry Moran for introducing their bipartisan legislation, which will support the continued return of trade shows, conferences, and exhibitions taking place coast to coast, as well as the countless US small businesses that they work hard to serve every day.”

ECA says it will continue to be actively engaged on Capitol Hill in support of the Visa Processing Improvement Act and other Congressional efforts to reduce visa delays as part of its ongoing advocacy on this important policy priority for the business events sector.


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