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Performance visa rules grow more complex for foreign artists

Many North Carolina residents like to take in a show at the local theater or see a concert. But some foreign acts might not be coming to perform in this country anymore. Foreign musicians, actors and other performance artists are discovering that the government's immigration laws are becoming increasingly restrictive, often making travel to the United States not worth their while.

Visa rules were altered after 9/11, but performers and the attorneys who work to secure their visas report that the procedures have become even more restrictive during the past few years. Artists must receive the approval of Homeland Security and the State Department. Base fees are $325 per visa, which can price some larger and less well-funded ensembles out of an American tour. In addition, processing can take up to half a year, which is a logistical headache that some performers do not want to endure.

These new realities are reflected in the latest data on performance visas. According to Homeland Security figures, one-quarter fewer foreign artists applied for a performance visa in 2010 than in 2006. In addition, that time period also witnessed a rise in rejected applications, although those still remain relatively rare.

Some performers report having had their visa applications held up because their name matched that of another person marked for additional scrutiny by the government. Others say that their visas were delayed simply because they had an Arab name.

The difficulties that foreign performers encounter illustrate the complexity of the immigration process in general. Those seeking green cards or U.S. citizenship often have to navigate a host of laws and procedures before their applications are approved.

Source: The New York Times, "U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers," Larry Rohter, April 11, 2012.

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