Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance applauds additional Department of State funding to reduce visa wait times

The Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA), which represents the business events sector in the US, has welcomed government action aimed at tackling visa delays that have impacted the industry. As part of a fiscal year 2024 government funding package, the Department of State has been allocated $50m to address visa wait times and passport backlogs. International event attendee and exhibitors from certain countries have struggled to obtain US visas to attend major events in the US.

Hervé Sedky (pictured), president and CEO of Emerald Holding Inc. and ECA Board of Directors chair, highlighted the financial burdens international exhibitors and attendees bear well in advance of events. "Securing this funding marks an important step in reopening our doors and bringing all of our international stakeholders back to business events in the US,” he said.

A primary focus for ECA in 2024 is to restore visa services to their pre-pandemic efficiency while advocating for modernisation in the processing system. Despite some reductions in wait times, delays remain significantly long in several key locations globally, including Mexico City, Bogota, and Mumbai.

In addition to the financial injection for the State Department, ECA is rallying behind three legislative proposals aimed at enhancing the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of visa processing within the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. These are the Visa Processing Improvement Act, the Visitor Visa Wait Time Reduction Act, and the VISITOR Act.

“ECA welcomes this positive development from Capitol Hill, but we need to ensure that such lengthy visa wait times never occur again,” Sedky added.

To further this cause, ECA will host its Legislative Action Day on 30 May, 2024, convening industry leaders and advocates in Washington, DC. This event aims to facilitate direct dialogue with policymakers about the critical issues facing the business events sector, ensuring the industry’s voice is heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill.