What’s the Latest on Visa Wait Times?

May 1, 2024

Tommy Goodwin

Tommy Goodwin is Vice President for the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA), an association dedicated to the advancement of the business events industry. He leads ECA’s advocacy and member engagement work on behalf of the interconnected ecosystem of exhibitors, show and event organizers, suppliers, venues and destinations that comprise the global business events landscape.

While post-COVID international travel to the U.S. reopened in late 2021, trade show, conference and corporate meeting organizers across the country have not been able to bring all their international exhibitors and attendees to their events in the U.S.

Why? Persistent visa processing delays in many key markets around the world. 

Here’s an example: If a would-be exhibitor or attendee from Mexico City applied for a visitor visa for the first time at the local U.S. embassy today, they would have to wait 878 days for an interview with a consular officer. 

That’s not 878 days to get a visa, just an interview as part of the visa application process!

The story is similar for visa applicants in Bogota (685 days), Istanbul (553 days), Mumbai (494 days) and Abu Dhabi (458 days).

Since international exhibitors and attendees need to start making financial outlays up to one year in advance of coming to events in the U.S., these long wait times mean that the U.S. is still closed for business to visitors from many countries.

It’s not all bad news, however. Average visitor visa interview wait times in Brazil are down more than 85 percent over the last year, and wait times remain stable in China. And there’s more help on the way. 

In March, Congress provided the U.S. State Department with $50 million in extra funding to help reduce visa wait times and passport backlogs.  

As Hervé Sedky, Emerald Holding Inc. president and CEO and chair of the ECA board of directors, said at the time: "Securing this funding marks an important step in reopening our doors and bringing all of our international stakeholders back to business events in the U.S., which play a vital role in driving domestic economic growth, fostering job creation and empowering U.S. small businesses every day.”

While this advocacy win was good news for the industry, there is still more to be done for the State Department to meet its stated goal of having more than 90 percent of our overseas posts to have visitor visa interview wait times under 90 days in 2024. 

That’s why ECA is still working on Capitol Hill to advance legislation that would help further reduce wait times while helping to ensure that such delays never happen again. 

Specifically, ECA supports three bipartisan bills that would increase flexibility, transparency, and accountability when it comes to visitor visa processing. They are: 

These bills will be front and center during ECA Legislative Action Day, which takes place in Washington, DC on Thursday, May 30. 

This annual event brings industry leaders and advocates from across our industry to Capitol Hill to meet with policymakers about important issues that impact the business events ecosystem, including visitor visa interview wait times. 

To find out how you can be part of ECA Legislative Action Day and advocate for further bringing visa wait times down, click here.


Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on LinkedIn!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
One of the most iconic names on the Las Vegas Strip just got an upgrade. Mandalay Bay has everything that your business needs from a refreshed convention space designed to inspire productivity and creativity, to an impressive selection of world-class restaurants and amenities. If you're looking for a venue that's both inviting and innovative, you have to be here. New Wave Experiences Mandalay Bay continues to invest in a new wave of enhancements both in the convention space and within the resort as a whole. New restaurant openings including Orla by Michael Mina, drawing inspiration from the award-winning chef’s childhood in Egypt and with flavors and décor inspired by the spices found in markets common to coastal Mediterranean towns, as well as Caramá by Wolfgang Puck, bringing the essence of Italy and spirit of Wolfgang into one concept, are recent additions. The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas also experienced a recent remodel of all 424 rooms. Swingers, a high-end, adults-only golf and entertainment concept will debut in Fall 2024. Enhanced Technology Creating a truly effective conference venue requires careful thought into what a business needs: the right technology, capacity, and inspiration to bring ideas to the next level. As part of the resort’s refresh, Mandalay Bay implemented state-of-the-art technology upgrades, installing cutting-edge Cat6A Ethernet cabling throughout the convention center. This advancement doubles the frequency of data transmission, enabling lightning-fast speeds up to 9400% faster. The convention center now boasts 11 dynamic digital walls, spanning up to 24' x 13', strategically positioned for brand placements, sponsorships and targeted event messaging. Additionally, attendees can benefit from 20 double-sided 55" mobile flexible display units, facilitating effortless navigation to meeting rooms and events. RFID locks were installed on all meeting room doors, and over 200 motion detection cameras have been placed throughout the space. Refreshing New Design & Fine Art The newly remodeled convention space provides a bright and vibrant atmosphere that complements Mandalay Bay's tropical-inspired brand. Featuring white-washed walls and ceilings adorned with bold floral patterns in cerulean and coral tones, the space is complemented by warm walnut accent walls. In addition to the redesign of all pre-function spaces, meeting rooms and ballrooms, Mandalay Bay's 1 million square feet of exhibit space has undergone a rejuvenation, including new paint, covered pillars and relocated strobe lights. Sustainable Spectacles Mandalay Bay is committed to Focused on What Matters and creating more responsible meetings. Refillable water stations all available around the resort, cutting unnecessary plastic usage from single-use bottles. The Mandalay Bay campus’ recent upgrades represent a bold step forward in redefining the Las Vegas experience. With a focus on innovation, sustainability, and unparalleled service, Mandalay Bay sets a new standard for excellence in business hospitality. Whether you're seeking cutting-edge conference facilities, world-class dining options, or simply a luxurious retreat, an unparalleled meeting experience awaits.