GREY MATTER: ARTISTIC BARRIERS
[Originally published: Issue #6, circa 1989]
PROTEST VISA RESTRICTIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL PERFORMING ARTISTS
In August of 1986, the Immigration and Naturalization Service proposed anew regulations governing visas for performing artists from other countries (H-1 visas). The regulations restrict visas to artists who can prove they are “pre-eminent” in their field. But how is this “pre-eminence” determined?
DOLLAR ORIENTED CRITERIA
Many groups throughout this country, including AVID, argue that the criteria for H-1 visas is too commercially oriented and denies all but the most mainstream performers access to U.S. audiences. Criteria for entry includes:
• artists has or will perform as a star of featured entertainer in a major production
• artist commands a high salary
• artist has achieved extensive commercial success as evidenced by record sales or box office receipts
• performance will take place in concert halls with a distinguished reputation
• artist has received national or international awards
Although the new rules change little of current regulations, their publication coupled with an increasing pattern of delays and denials of visas have pulled together a wide spectrum of cultural organizations concerned about threat to international cultural exchange.
EFFECT ON U.S. JOBS
By their very nature, performing artists from other countries provide something unique that U.S. artists cannot duplicate. Although the INS justifies its present policies of tight restrictions as protection of American jobs, foreign artists and performers maintain the lifeblood of hundreds of folk music clubs, new wave music venues, performance halls, and touring circuits, helping to employ thousands more.
Already several European countries as well as Canada are threatening retaliatory action against U.S. artists in response to a more restrictive policy in the U.S.
WHO IS AVID?
Artists and Others Against Visa Denials (AVID) is a group of artists, club owners, promoters, cultural and political activists who have formed an ad hoc group go protest a closing door on culture. We would support legislation opening up rather than closing audience access to art from around the world.