A recent article in the Guardian notes that the ever-complex and expensive process of getting work and travel permits are stopping musicians from arriving on American shores. But it gets worse than than...
In this story, Trouble and cost of visas halts Hall's US tour, note that this problem doesn't just compromise classical music:
"Other agents said rock musicians, also fed up with the process and expense, were refusing to visit the US to work. Katie Ray, of Traffic Control Group Ltd, which secures visas and work permits mainly for rock bands, said some artists were now choosing not to tour in the US."
And how hard do they make it for a band to come across the pond? The article continues...
"Most visitors with machine-readable passports can still use the visa waiver scheme, but performers intending to work in the US cannot do this. They have to arrange an appointment at the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, via a phone line charged at Σ1.30 a minute, and then appear for an interview and fingerprinting. The fee is $100."
So if some of your favorite English acts aren't touring the U.S. as of now and in the future, you know who to thank.
And it just keeps getting worse... according to a recent memo circulated by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, in the States itself, the process for getting Visas for foreign artists to travel to U.S. just got more complicated also:
"Effective April 1, 2006, all O and P visa petitions -- regardless of the location of the petitioner -- must be sent to the Vermont Service Center of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). No longer will petitioners send visa applications to the service centers in Nebraska, Texas or California."
Surely the Customs people thought this would be a good idea to streamline the operation but it also makes it more inconvenient for anyone outside of the Northeast area.
Since the U.S. govt places such a high value on stopping terrorists (or supposed terrorists) and bureaucracy and such little value on the arts, this kind of closed minded thinking shouldn't be surprising. Ultimately, it means that we're going to be more isolated from other cultures and ideas and in the end, be all the poorer for it.
One group trying to buck this trend is the American Arts Alliance. They have a website where they detail their efforts to stop these insane barriers erected to make it as difficult as possible for artists to travel to America.