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Organizing an International Meeting in the United States
Since foreign attendees will need to apply for their visas at least three to four months in advance, meeting organizers are advised to send invitations letters to their attendees as early as possible.
The International Visitors Office (IVO) continues to maintain a list of meetings held in the United States that are sponsored by national or international scientific organizations, universities and research institutes. In addition, the IVO gathers information on visa issues encountered by international travelers interested in attending these meetings. If you are a conference organizer who anticipates high international participant attendance, you are encouraged to complete an on-line International Meeting Registration Form for your event. This data will be analyzed and used in ongoing efforts to increase scientific freedom.
WHAT CAN I DO FOR MY VISITORS?
We highly recommend that meeting organizers send participants an invitation letter to be submitted by the applicant when he or she applies for the visa. It is also recommended that visa applicants have documentation that demonstrates the purpose of their trip. Letters that notify attendees that their paper has been accepted for presentation at the meeting may suffice, but sometimes a more personalized letter is needed.
Sending an Invitation Letter
When sending a letter of invitation, be aware that signing such a letter imparts the imprimatur of the host organization -- whether it is a professional society or international union. Therefore, we recommend that the letter state only those things about the applicant that the person signing the letter can verify. If you decide that an invitation is appropriate, send it as early as possible and include the following specific information:
- Name, dates, location and purpose of the meeting;
- Name, date of birth, and passport number (if known) of the attendee;
- Information on how transportation and local expenses are to be funded;
- Information on the organization sponsoring the meeting and relationship to the attendee; and
- Name, title, contact information (phone, fax, e-mail, meeting Web site) of person responsible for the meeting, in case the consular officer has further questions.
Visit the State Department Business Visa Center for more information.
HOW ARE VISAS ISSUED?
U.S. visas are issued by American consular officials according to the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Some U.S. consulates receive hundreds of visa applications each week. Federal regulations now require more thorough visa processing. Security checks and interviews are required for most visitor visas, resulting in a process that may take three months or more from the time of the visa application. Citizens of certain countries must have an invitation in hand before they can obtain a passport from their government and then apply for a U.S. entry visa.
WHAT CAN I DO IN THE EVENT OF VISA DELAYS OR DENIALS?
Committed to encouraging international scientific exchange and collaboration, the International Visitors Office has been collecting data on the problems that scientists and engineers are experiencing with visa applications. If one of your meeting participants has experienced difficulties in applying for a visa, you can report the case to us by submitting a Visa Questionnaire. We will review the case and contact you if we are able to assist in any way.
For specific information on delays and denials, see the Travel to the United States section of this site.
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