The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) reports that a recent study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) confirms what show management knows first-hand: current U.S. visa procedures deter many qualified international buyers from doing business at U.S.-based trade shows.
The CEIR study examined the impact of U.S. visa issues on the American economy and concluded that without visa barriers, business sales to U.S. companies would increase $2.4 billion from this incremental international trade show participation.
The additional sales are calculated to sustain more than 17,500 jobs directly and 43,000 jobs overall plus generate three-quarters of a billion dollars in state and federal taxes, according to the study. "When people are unable to attend an event, business does not happen, sales are not closed and opportunities are lost," the report says.
"The visa process is slow, overly complicated and can seem very arbitrary. While we understand and support the need for adequate U.S. security procedures, these are established business people. American companies are losing customers because, in many instances, these international buyers become frustrated and go elsewhere," said Dennis Slater, AEM president.
AEM has actively advocated the need for streamlined visa approval processes, testifying before Congress and holding numerous meetings with key Administration officials, including the State Department and Department of Commerce.
"Exports are the key to growth for our leading equipment manufacturers and many of our smaller companies increasingly rely on exports to keep their businesses operating. For companies large to small, with the current economy, unnecessarily driving away qualified business prospects hurts America's competitiveness in the global marketplace," stated Slater.
Slater also cited data from the Institute for International Economics showing that export business helps U.S. companies not only grow faster, but they are also nearly 8.5% less likely to go out of business than non-exporting companies.
AEM has supported a "fast-track" process for qualified international business visitors and urged the government to allocate more staff to high-applicant posts, provide more staff training, prepare applicants better for the focus of the visa interview and make the process more transparent and accountable.