The International Association of Exhibitions and Events is urging President Obama to adopt recommendations made by the President's Export Council intended to fix visa and entry policies that are preventing thousands of international buyers from attending U.S.–based events.
"The United States is not losing the competition, we are forfeiting it. We are not even in the game,” wrote Steven Hacker, CAE, president, IAEE, in a letter to President Obama. The current visa policies hurt the chances of achieving the goals of the National Export Initiative, launched in 2010 with the objective of doubling exports by 2015, Hacker added. Exhibitions can be instrumental in boosting exports, but problems related to obtaining visas precluded 116,000 international participants from attending U.S. exhibitions in 2010, according to a study conducted by Oxford Economics for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. That translates into an estimated $2.4 billion in lost sales and revenue, the study concluded.
The President’s Export Council made the following recommendations:
- Establish dedicated desks at U.S. consulates to facilitate visa processing and set aside time for visa traveler interviews;
- Streamline the visa interview and issuance processes by increasing the number of consular offices abroad, moving resources to those posts with the highest demand, and waiving the interview requirement for low-risk cases;
- Work with Congress to reform U.S. visa and immigration policies to attract highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and innovators from around the world;
- Establish a Trusted Employer Program through the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to facilitate travel for employers with strong track records of compliance; and
- Form an informal public-private working group to serve as a mechanism to improve transparency and increase communication between the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, and State, other relevant government agencies, and U.S. companies and industry groups.