Executive Travel Directors Reveals How Obtaining Visas Impedes Business Travel

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Visa Process Serves As Obstacle in Meeting Planning Industry

Terms pose problems for the meeting planning industry, where international programs and staff assignments arise and change at the last minute.

Ever-changing requirements, varying policies, and inconsistent consulate turn-around periods make obtaining business visas on short notice a challenging and expensive process. Countries are tightening stipulations in order to crack down on illegal trading, deter terrorist threats, and protect domestic business. As a result, regular, long-term and multi-entry visas are more difficult to obtain without advanced notice and detailed plans.

Such terms pose problems for the meeting planning industry, in which international programs and staff assignments arise and change at the last minute. International pharm programs are often planned shortly before they occur based on FDA approvals and releases. In such time-sensitive cases, finding available on-site staff and getting them proper documentation to work abroad can seem next to impossible. Some consulates, such as the Brazil office in the Miami region, can take up to 35 days to produce a business visa. On the other hand, some Chinese consulates can expedite a business visa in 1 to 2 days with a letter of invite from the Chinese foreign ministry, booked flight itinerary, and some extensive additional fees.

Time and money serve as significant obstacles in the visa application process, yet other issues can arise. Many consulates do not grant business visas to those who have passports with less than 6 months of validity. Some consulates will even reject a visa application if one’s passport has extended validity, but the photo is more than 6 months old.

Obtaining a business visa proves to be a difficult task for travel staff and meeting planners with short sell programs, and there is no particular way to avoid running into issues. Nonetheless, here are some steps those in the meeting industry can follow to be a little more prepared:

  •     Book flights as soon as staff are confirmed.
  •     Update passports at least 6 months before they expire.
  •     Get a passport picture taken every 6 months.
  •     Contact CIBT personnel and consulate within your jurisdiction upon program assignment for up-to-date visa requirements.

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Kim Korhonen
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