"The U.S. government''s heightened concern for security following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks still persists and is a chief cause for delays in visa application processing," says Walt Bishop, SPI''s VP of trade shows. "International visitors who have not yet applied for their U.S. visas should do so as soon as possible. In some countries, further delay will prevent such individuals from obtaining visas in time to attend."
The same situation occurred with the last NPE in 2003 when U.S. state department bureaucracy prevented some would-be visitors from China, selected Asian countries, and the Middle East from obtaining entry. Some also reported having visa requests turned down without explanation.
Citizens from 27 countries are covered by the visa waiver program and therefore need not worry about this issue. These countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.
Potential visitors from other countries are, however, being asked by the SPI to download a document (www.npe.org/international) giving advice on applying for a visa and preparing for an interview by a consular officer in their country. Official invitation letters from the SPI can be obtained upon pre-registration to attend NPE 2006. Such letters are to be included with visa applications and presented during interviews with U.S. consular officers.
"First-time visa applicants need to understand that the decision on approving or rejecting an individual''s visa application is made locally by a particular consular officer, and not at the State Department in Washington," says Bishop. "While the interview required for each applicant at the U.S. office in his or her country typically takes only a few minutes, it may take weeks to obtain an appointment for the interview because of the backlog of applicants."-Robert Colvin; -[email protected]