Having trouble getting your international attendees and exhibitors into the country? Based on a session at this year's IAEM Annual Meeting, here are some recommendations on how to make it as easy as possible for your international visitors to obtain visas:
Start your international promotion much earlier - say 9 months out. Post on your web site a checklist re how your international prospects should go about applying for a visa (IAEM is working up standard wording for this).
If you have a history with the individual, offer to send a letter of invitation (if needed). Send this letter directly to the individual (not the consular officer) which the individual will attach to his visa application. Issuance of a visa depends on whether the consular officer believes the individual is likely to return to his country after attending your show. Thus, the letter should:
Be as specific as possible about the individual's bona fides, such as the number of years he has attended your show, whether he is a speaker, committee member, etc. Also, if possible, mention why his attendance will help U.S. exports (such as he is chief of widget purchasing for his firm).
Be on your show's actual letterhead (and not simply an email).If you send it electronically, make the letter an attachment.
Include a short statement establishing the importance of your show to U.S. exports (such as Widget Expo is the largest widget manufacturing show held in North America).
Emphasize your show is a date certain event and thus it is important to expedite the issuance of the visa.
Not make any recommendations nor guarantees about the individual.
If you do not have a history with the individual, be careful about vouching for him. Suggest you have him prove to you his sincere/legitimate interest in your show. If this convinces you, then send the letter of invitation. But do not go beyond what you know to be true about the individual.