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Society for Social Studies of Science

In Support of Non-US Travelers to 4S 2017

4S 2017 conference attendees,

As the date of the 4S 2017 conference in Boston draws nearer, we continue to monitor US policy regarding international visitors and to assess its impact on 4S members and conference participants.  With thanks for the suggestions that we’ve received from members to this point, we’re writing now with information aimed at facilitating smooth passage for international travelers into the United States.

All who are coming from outside the United States should make sure to review up-to-date visa and travel requirements on the website of the US embassy in their country. See US Department of Homeland Security guidelines and links to forms for entry to the United States, and Additional Advice for International Travel below.  Please note that administrative processing may be delayed or take longer than usual – if you need a visa to travel to the US, please initiate the process immediately if you haven’t done so already.

If you need a letter inviting you to the conference or confirming your participation in the program, please email the Program Chair at by July 31. Certificates confirming attendance will be available at conference registration. 

We advise all travelers to carry at least one photocopy of relevant documentation (visa, passport, and 4S letter of invitation) with them. We also encourage you to let someone within the US (preferably in Boston or in your city of entrance into the US) know your travel plans so that they can alert conference organizers if you face any problems.  If you don’t have such a personal contact, please let us know by July 31 if you would like to be linked to a conference attendee in the United States who can serve in this role. We are happy to arrange this. Also, if you would like to volunteer to support a 4S conference attendee in this way, please let us know.  Requests and volunteers can email Kim Fortun at  Please include a phone number and email address at which we can contact you.

When you volunteer to be a 4S travel support partner, you are offering to give your personal contact information to a fellow 4S attendee coming from outside the US who will be connecting through/close to your home airport as their first point of entry. You will be ‘on call’ with your connection’s travel itinerary, and s/he will check in with you when s/he has landed. If there are any issues at the airport, you agree to be available via phone or if necessary, in person at the airport to help your partner connect to relevant resources.

If you or others face problems in trying to enter the United States, contact 4S Council members Anita Chan (  and Shobita Parthasarathy (, who will be on call in days leading to the conference.   

As we have previously stated, 4S will provide support for virtual presentations for members who are not able to be present in person for reasons related to US travel policies. If you would like support for virtual presentation on your panel, please request this by July 31 by emailing .

We will post any additional updates on the meeting webpage. 

We look forward to a great conference – thank you for participating.

Kim Fortun, Lucy Suchman, Sara Wylie, Anita Chan, Shobita Parthasarathy, Tania Perez-Bustos, Ad Hoc Committee in Support of Non-US Travelers to 4S 2017.


An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is required for some travelers who didn’t need a visa in the past (because their country participated in the ‘Visa Waiver Program’).   It is required for all UK passport holders, for example.   A full list of included countries is available at the link above.  The US Customs and Border Patrol recommends that you do this at least 72 hours before departure. 

Most people who will need to apply for visas to travel to the United States will have to do so under the B1/B2 category (leisure + business travel). Note that many visa applicants will be subject to section 221(g), which requires additional ‘Administrative Processing’ before the visa is issued. A good overview of what to expect is provided by the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University.  Administrative Processing is often time-consuming, and can take up to a couple of months before a visa is actually issued.

Some visa applicants may be asked to answer ‘supplemental questions.’  See this explanation and list of questions.

When asked about the purpose of your travel to the US, you may say that you are “presenting at a conference.”  If you’d like a formal letter of invitation to carry with you, you may request one from the Program Chair by emailing

Note that people from some countries need a passport valid for at least six months beyond the time of their stay. See list of countries exempt from the six-month requirement.

With respect to the controversial White House Executive Order seeking to restrict travel to the US by citizens of 6 Muslim-majority countries, on June 26 the Supreme Court wrote that it “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” US immigration lawyers have said that presenting a paper at a conference constitutes such a bona fide relationship with an entity in the US  (From this Parsing of the Partial Reinstatement of the [US]Travel Ban)