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Strict Visa Regulations Discourage Visiting Artists
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post

Washington Post, October 20, 2007
Posted: October 26th, 2007

The Halle Orchestra, one of Great Britain's oldest symphony orchestras, has not toured the United States in more than a decade, so spirits were high when the group secured dates at Lincoln Center and in Upstate New York for performances last winter. But when the orchestra learned that to get their entry visas, all 85 musicians -- every last cellist, oboist and piccolo player -- would have to travel from their Manchester headquarters to the U.S. Embassy in London for personal interviews, electronic fingerprinting and facial-recognition scans, it scrapped the trip. Budgeting for airfare and travel costs to New York was one thing, but simply getting everyone to the embassy at the same time, along with hotel bills and fees for the visas themselves, would have cost an additional $80,000, said marketing director Andy Ryans. "It was very simply money that we didn't have," Ryans explained. "We were desperate to go to the States, but our hands were absolutely tied." Theirs aren't the only ones. To perform in this country, foreign artists of all stripes -- punk rockers, ballet dancers, folk musicians, acrobats -- are funneled through a one-size-fits-all "nonimmigrant" visa process whose costs and complications have become prohibitive, according to booking agents, managers and presenters, such as the Kennedy Center, who program and market the performers. Visiting businesspeople face similar security hurdles put in place since Sept. 11, 2001. But artists' visa petitions also require substantial documentation to satisfy the "sustained international recognition" requirement for the type of visa (called a "P-1") issued to many performing artists. Arts organizations say they have become reluctant to book foreign performers because of the risk of bureaucratic snags. Soon after Sept. 11, the State Department rolled out its Biometric Visa Program, requiring all applicants to undergo fingerprinting and have photographs taken at the nearest U.S. consulate each time they apply.

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