This Just In

Trade Show and Events Industry Applauds Legislation Dedicating Funds to Reducing Visa Wait Times

U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON D.C. — Supplemental funding for the U.S. Department of State to help reduce visa wait times was included in a six-bill package of fiscal year 2024 government funding bills, in a move applauded by the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA). This legislation will provide the State Department with $50 million in funds dedicated to the visa wait time issue and passport backlogs.

While the legislation is not prescriptive on how the money should be spent, the funds will most likely be spent on hiring more personnel, building out infrastructure at high-volume posts and technological upgrades at posts.

ECA has long been advocating for measures to decrease the wait times for visas to help bring back international travelers. Along with reducing the wait times, ECA is also focused on advocating for the visa processing system to be modernized. While the wait times overall have decreased, there are still long waits at embassies and consulates like Bogota Columbia (725 days) and Mexico City (882 days).

Along with the supplemental funding, the ECA is also supporting legislation that would increase transparency, accountability and flexibility in visitor visa processing at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The legislation supported includes S.2632: Visa Processing Improvement Act, H.R.5127: Visitor Visa Wait Time Reduction Act and H.R.7263: VISITOR Act.

Related. Strong Start to 2024 Marked by Successful Industry Advocacy Efforts

Industry Leaders’ Reactions

Trade show and event industry leaders are happy with the securing of the funding and optimistic about the impacts it will have on the industry.

Vincent Polito, CEO, Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO)

“This was an effort that the coalition that supports ECA approached from many angles with the leadership provided from Tommy Goodwin. I’d describe this success as the end of the beginning and now the work really commences. You can expect ECA to stay in this line with asks that will help further bring wait times down and make sure these long wait times never happen again,” said Polito.

Marsha Flanagan, M.Ed., CEM, President and CEO, International Association for Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)

“Visa wait times have been an ongoing issue since the pandemic, affecting a large portion of trade shows in the U.S. Legislation from Capitol Hill that funding for visa wait times and helping with passport backlogs was approved is welcomed news and proof that our advocacy efforts are working,” said Flanagan.

Nancy Walsh, President, North America, Informa Markets

“We are thrilled to hear that the U.S. government is prioritizing reducing visa and passport backlogs. This is a testament to the tremendous work of the ECA, who have adeptly advocated for our industry’s best interests, where international travel plays such a vital role. With our contribution of $225 billion in economic impact through fostering global connections, this decision is a significant stride towards sustaining and building on the incredible momentum that we have seen in the post-pandemic era,” said Walsh.

Reach Vincent Polito at; Marsha Flanagan at; Nancy Walsh at

Read Nancy Walsh’s Power Lunch feature from the March edition of TSE here.

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