When you invite speakers from foreign countries to present at your next event or market attendance at your event to an international market, they (and you) will need to brush up on your knowledge about US visa requirements. Generally, business or tourism visas are sufficient for temporary visitor travel, including for conference and event attendance. However, due to recent changes by the State Department, many companies have begun to experience the pain and hassle of long processing times, increased numbers of denials, and changes to visa types needed. You can help save your event (and help your attendees and speakers participate from anywhere) with remote attendance options. Providing your remote attendees with laptop rentals and tablet rentals that come pre-loaded with your event app and software helps ensure that every user gets a full and complete event experience that will keep them coming back year after year. Read on to learn more about how changing visa issues might affect your participants and how remote attendance options can help save your next event.
The issue with visas
Even in the best of circumstances, it takes around three to five weeks for the State Department to process travel visas. In the wake of recent changes, tightening restrictions, and greater scrutiny of applications, wait times and denial numbers are increasing. These issues can even lead some of the most reputable global companies having trouble getting some of their most important foreign executives and participants to event locations in the US.
In the past, most event attendees were able to attend events with Business (B-1) or Tourism (B-2) visas that covered activities like attending conferences and conventions, negotiating contracts, and unpaid participation in musical, sports, and other similar events and contests. Frequent rule changes and unclear directives have led to some confusion at points of entry across the US – leading some visitors with B-1 and B-2 visas to be denied entry because they had not been notified that these visa types were no longer sufficient for their travel purposes. Often, the application of these restrictions and denials of entry seem to be applied inconsistently, causing additional confusion for visa applicants.
Victims of visa restriction and confusion
In 2017, The International, the largest Dota 2 esports gaming event, saw the loss of its host Henrik Ahnberg and a member of Team Empire due to confusion over the type of visa needed for them to attend the event. Both had previously attended the event on the same visas, but the new rules and updated regulations surrounding visa issuance led to both being denied their visas at the last minute.
Visa issues also caused major headaches at the 2017 SXSW. At least seven bands were turned away by US Customs for possessing the wrong visa type. Though all of the bands had previously entered the US and participated in SXSW on the B1 visa, they were denied entry by Customs agents who later issued a statement that international performers at the event now needed to possess a P-1 visa. P-1 visas have traditionally only been required for paid professional athletes and entertainers.
Technology to the rescue
However, there are steps you can take to help ensure that your event doesn’t take too much of a hit due to potential visa issues. Joining your conference, event, or meeting remotely allows your participants the opportunity to take part in your event from afar, ensuring that information and details are able to reach a wider audience. For smaller groups and business meetings, Google Hangouts may be an ideal option to help connect all of your attendees. For larger groups, Cisco WebEx and ezTalks Meeting both provide the best opportunities for remote attendance and participation in your event.
With all of the work that you’ve put into your event, it’s important that you get all of your remote attendees on the same digital page. In the ever-evolving world of technology, you can’t rely on your attendees’ equipment to have the specs needed to run your apps or to view all of the documents you’ll be sharing. Laptop rentals and tablet rentals preloaded with your event app, necessary programs to view shared items, and video conferencing software can help all of your attendees get the best experience from your event.
Avoid confusion and stress
Don’t let visa issues and processing bottlenecks cause your attendees and speakers to miss out on your next big event like they did the 2017 African Global Economic and Development Summit in Los Angeles. Laptop rentals or tablet rentals can be pre-loaded with the apps and software your users need to make the most of their remote attendee experience.