Advice for non-US citizens/residents

With apologies to Neil Diamond for the title; ISLS welcomes a global audience in all its activities. However, we all live in a world where movement of people is controlled not only by personal situations such as financial ability to travel, but also by governments and their border controls.

The local organizing committee is happy to welcome international scholars to our city and to the US. However, in recent years visiting the US for conference travel has become more difficult. So we wanted to share some information for scholars coming to the US from other countries.

First, if the US requires a visa for people of your nationality, please apply as soon as possible. Even if your paper has not yet been accepted or rejected, if you can afford it, we recommend applying as soon as possible since you may have to schedule a visa interview far into the future. See Even if you are not required to obtain a visa, you may need to preregister to enter the US through the ESTA program

Second, know that under US law, we at the conference have no influence over the visa process. It has become customary for applicants for US visas to present a variety of forms of documentation, including acceptance letters to present your paper or registration confirmation documenting that you are registered for the conference. We are working on ways to make sure everyone has access to this documentation once the paper is accepted or the registration is processed. However, unlike in some other situations or countries, a formal letter of invitation is neither required, nor can it be submitted with initial application for a visitor visa. Instead, please do bring your proof of acceptance and/or registration to your visa interview if you think it is helpful.

Third, please know that for people who are unable to get legal authorization to enter the United States, our accommodations process and hybridity plan is set up to support participation remotely to the extent we can manage. Although the early accommodations request process (associated with submissions) has closed, the regular accommodations process will open with conference registration.

Fourth, a special note regarding Canada. Buffalo is reachable by taxi, bus, or train ride from Toronto, Canada. For non-US, non-Canadian citizens we do not recommend flying in to Toronto due to the additional risk of crossing multiple international borders. However, if you do pursue this route, ensure that you have done everything necessary to enter Canada and the US. Note that entry to the US may be refused even to those who have a valid visa. Thus, flying to Toronto and crossing to Buffalo via land may result in being stuck in Canada (or similarly, you may be refused return through Canada after visiting Buffalo). Having said that, a flight to Toronto or nearby airports such as Hamilton ON plus a land crossing may be cheapest and most convenient for Canadian citizens. Entry to the US for Canadian citizens still requires documentation; see Canadian landed immigrants or international students at Canadian universities do not have special privileges to enter the US and may still require a visa depending on citizenship. Most visitors flying from countries outside the US and Canada will find it easier to book the short connecting flights from major US gateway cities. (Flying time between New York City and Buffalo is less than an hour, for example.)

Although we can not provide legal advice related to immigration, if you have a special request regarding documentation of participation in the conference, please email [email protected]

Below is a list of helpful pointers originally published by the ACM FAccT 2023 conference that may be useful to you:

Visa Application Information

The U.S. State Department maintains an overview of the Visa application process and relevant definitions. Additionally, the following key information may be of use:

Submitting your Visa application

  • We recommend that you submit your Visa application as soon as you can. Processing times (appointment wait times) for visa applications vary depending on the visa office and the time of the year.
  • Make sure you complete all parts of your application. A common problem in previous years is submission of an incomplete application.
  • Carefully read all instructions for the required forms and adhere to them strictly, see for example the DS-160 FAQ. Errors in your application may require you to reschedule your appointment
  • If your initial appointment is too far in the future, we encourage you to check appointment availability regularly. There is often the option to reschedule for an earlier date as new appointments become available.
  • Note that US embassies do not reimburse Visa fees if Visa appointment is canceled or Visa is denied