For foreign visitors contemplating attending meetings in the United States, the new security program, US-VISIT, which requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the U.S. on a visa are fingerprinted and photographed at the port of entry, can be intimidating or even frightening. Depending upon their country of origin, some visitors may be subject to a high level of security screening. While these procedures are not supposed to add much time to the immigration clearance process, they can have a profound impact on how visitors feel about coming to meetings in the United States.

While there isn’t much that medical meeting planners can do about the new regulations, it is important to remember that international attendees may be confused and upset. Good PR and a kind ear will help. Be proactive:

  • Include information about what to expect in all of your travel documentation.

  • Put links on your Web site to updated information services from U.S. Customs.

  • Have greeters at the airport who speak multiple languages to assist with any questions.

  • Assign “meeting ambassadors” who are experienced in a variety of cultures to answer questions and simply be available to listen.

  • Find tourist information in a variety of languages to help visitors feel more at home; have it waiting for them in their room.

  • Be prepared to soothe some sore feelings when your international attendees arrive.