The following is a synopsis of an interview done on WNYC by John Schaefer with the Washington Post's Sarah Kaufman as well as Iranian musician Raam of the band Hypernova...
The foreign arts world is buzzing as plans to enact a new United States visa policy for artists is beginning to pick up speed-- having already passed the House of Representatives (just recently, on April 1st), only two more steps remain (being voted on by the Senate, and then signed into law by the President). Originally proposed by Howard Berman and 10 other bipartisan leaders, the A.R.T.S. act (short for Arts Require Timely Service) aims to broaden the definition of an artist (in an effort to allow more artists entrance into the U.S.), as well as garner a quicker response and potentially lowering the costs for applying for the visa itself. If an artist has not yet gotten a response on whether their visa has been green-lighted after 30 days, they are then moved into the fast-lane where they will assuredly receive a response within 15 more days whether they will be accepted or denied their trip to the U.S. Not only that, but should an artist’s paperwork be disregarded for that 30 day period, the $1000 fee would be waived in totality: encouraging a quicker response for an artist in need.
Generally, for an artist to gain access to a visa, they would need to pay a $1000 premium processing fee (as well as the costs of a hotel, food, etc., when an interview is established)--and, should an artist waive that fee, they shall not gain access to the U.S. for their tour, performance, what-have-you. What the A.R.T.S. act will change is not only the speed in which a response to their visa request will be given, but, it will also potentially reduce costs by a substantial amount.
A $1000 fee, just as it would be for you or me, is pretty out of the question. However, it could be made to feel even worse depending on where you're from, as this fee is in U.S. currency, and our money has a much higher value than a large number of foreign communities. These fees are often partially, or wholly, paid by the organization seeking to bring a given artist into the country, and, as such, they need more money, which leads to more fund-raisers! In 2001, 75% of non-profit organizations were willing to bring a foreign artist in, but, since that time (and the September 11th terrorist attacks) the number has dropped down to 60%.
The processing fee is one of the red-flags for artists, and, just as there are quite a few red-flags for an artist, there are red-flags viewed by those looking over any given application. When an artist is looking to tour, the CIS is especially troubled when an individual is single with no familial ties to go back to their homeland when a given stint in the U.S. is finalized. Another thing that must be proven is credentials. If a musician has plans to tour the U.S., or even to make one individual stop, they must demonstrate at least 12 months of success in their native country: tour records, hit-singles, awards, etc. If such a record of success cannot be found, a visa will be denied on the grounds that one is not a "legitimate" artist.
The U.S. isn't so much anti-immigrant as we may come off, we just need to have some sort of boundary line for security, just as every other nation does-- we cannot simply open our doors to all and say "come on in!" as that has the potential to create overpopulation among other things. So, that's what these visas are there for, to establish some sort of required background check before allowing just anyone beyond the borderline. Once an artist is actually in the States, the time that their visa remains acceptable can be extended if they can demonstrate that they have been continually touring, working on their craft, or by continuously working on their artist credentials. If there is an easily viewable record of work from a foreign artist in the U.S., their stay will allowably be elongated.
DubMC is the brainchild of Dmitri Vietze and is sponsored by rock paper scissors, inc., global music publicity firm