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Speedier visas planned for US-bound artists

Less red tape means foreign artists could give lectures, teach courses and complete residencies more easily, say museums

Organisations such as the Nars Foundation (New York Art Residency and Studios Foundation) could benefit from the immigration reform bill. Santina Amato participated in a Nars residency programme: Horses Shed Their Tails Once A Year In The Fall, 2011.

A comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the US Senate last week stands to make it easier for foreign artists to visit the country. The 1,200-page bill, which offers a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, also requires the government to process artists’ visa requests within one month of their initial filing. Under the current system, artists can wait up to six months for a visa and must pay a fee of $1,225 to receive expedited service.

“This provision assures you get a decisive decision that would allow a non-profit arts organisation to plan whether they can expect to have an artist visit,” says Narric W. Rome, the senior director of federal affairs and arts education at Americans for the Arts, which has lobbied for more efficient visa processing for artists. The amendment is co-sponsored by the Senators Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah. The bill currently awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.

The passage of the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, part of the immigration bill, “would be huge”, says Tom Finkelpearl, the director of the Queens Museum in New York. The amendment would enable museums to schedule foreign artists to give lectures, teach courses and complete residencies more easily. The Queens Museum’s artists-in-residence, for example, receive only three months’ notice that they have been accepted into the programme and “that’s not a lot of time to get a visa”, Finkelpearl says.

Despite a 1991 federal law to expedite arts visas, “there is a history of extreme unpredictability in the timing of the artist visa process,” says Ford Bell, the president of the American Alliance of Museums. “This could be a problem for museums trying to plan the activities of a teaching artist or artist-in-residence, especially if time-sensitive grant funding were involved.”

If passed, the amendment would most profoundly benefit performing arts groups like orchestras and theatre troupes that come to the US for scheduled performances. Under the current system, obtaining a group visa for artists can take more than twice as long as an individual artist visa. The unpredictable nature of the process can limit the number of advance ticket sales or cause the performers to miss their scheduled tour dates entirely.

The bill also includes several provisions to promote cultural tourism in the US. It will authorise continued federal funding from Brand USA, a company devoted to marketing US tourism in other countries. “The US had been losing market share in the international tourism industry for a while,” Rome says. “Cultural tourism is the most popular marketing strategy among all the travel bureaus in the country."

The ARTS Act, meanwhile, has the potential to broaden the scope of multidisciplinary programmes at museums across the country. “The language of the arts is universal, and we know that the arts bring people together,” Bell says. “The facilitated process could lead museums who invite performing artists from around the world to offer more of these kinds of programmes.”

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19 Jul 13
5:2 CET


Well, I hope we from the sub-saharan africa (nigeria) will benefit. I have got natural talent in topography/grahpic design...just wishing to manifest my talents someday...

15 Jul 13
4:40 CET


The HK Chinese Orchestra gave concerts at Carnegie Hall in 2009, Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center in 2005. The visa application via Consulate office here in HK is fine. That would be nice if the application would be simplified and we look forward to more policies would be coming out to facilitate traveling of artists, like permission of bring some delicate instruments on board the plane.

15 Jul 13
4:43 CET


With the U.S. graduating more and more MFA's and BFA's I think an artist from a foregin country better have something really interesting, ideas not thought of before in order to get a work-visa. I am for an artist being given a 3month visa in order to bring different ideas here, but longer than 3 months and we are just putting our own fine artists still further from employment. Why should I as a textile artist/ conservator be out of work when someone from a foreign country gets my possiblr job. I doubt Sweden, Iceland or Finland would give me a visa to work there for longer than 3 months, and I had better have a vision no other has in order to earn that right. Wholesale visas to foreign artists-NO, on a case by case basis- YES.

8 Jul 13
5:16 CET


A good start...but I have been banned for 3 years now from teaching textile art to guilds, retreats and festivals. Recently was refused entry for trying to bring my art work across to an Art Symposium. Is this legislature going to help me?

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