ECA Supports New Legislation to Address Visa Delays
The Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) applauds the introduction of the Visa Processing Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation that was introduced on July 27 by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). The legislation addresses the long visitor visa appointment wait times that are impacting the business events sector.
The Visa Processing Improvement Act proposes to improve visa processing within the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in four ways:
- Increasing consular office flexibility and capacity
- Improving transparency and accountability
- Revising in-person interview waiver eligibility
- Improving the service experience
Reducing visitor visa interview wait times was one of three policy issues addressed during ECA’s Legislative Action Day on June 1. Nearly 100 industry professionals, including TSNN, from 24 states participated in more than 100 meetings with their Congressional representatives, including Klobuchar and Moran, to advocate for this important legislation.
“Ongoing delays in visa processing are negatively impacting businesses, universities and families across Kansas and our country,” Moran stated in a press release. “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.”
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 U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriations addressed visa processing concerns in their respective State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs legislation. The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations also held an oversight subcommittee hearing where the impacts of visa delays on the business events sector were front and center.
Reaction from industry leaders
“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 Emerald President and CEO Hervé Sedky, who serves as chair of the ECA board of directors. “Such restrictions inhibited American business event organizers from welcoming buyers back to their events in the United States.”
He continued, “The legislation opens the doors to welcome back numerous international exhibitors, attendees and buyers to U.S. events, revitalizing access to essential customer bases and unlocking opportunities. 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 U.S. businesses can continue to thrive.”
Society of Independent Show Organizers Chief Executive Officer and ECA Co-President Vinnie Polito said, “Unacceptable visa delays continue to hold back the industry’s otherwise remarkable rebound. From setting clear goals for interview wait times to introducing new modernized processes, the Visa Processing Improvement Act would improve visa operations at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world and help our international stakeholders get back to business in the U.S.”
International Association of Exhibitions and Events President and CEO and ECA Co-President David DuBois said, “Exhibitions mean business nationwide and around the world. 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 U.S. small businesses that they work hard to serve every day.”
ECA will 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.
“ECA strongly encourages [Congress] to take action on this important legislation by the end of the year to help address these ongoing delays and ensure that they never happen again,” said ECA Vice President Tommy Goodwin.