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Senate Expected to Pass Improved Visa Process for Foreign Artists

by Mostafa Heddaya on June 25, 2013

UBIK, detail of "Dissident" (2012) (image via the artist)

Foreign artists seeking US visas stand to benefit from an amendement included in the immigration bill expected to pass the Senate on Thursday. Here, Dubai-based artist UBIK comments on the notorious Emirati visa process in this detail from his “Dissident” (2012) (image via the artist)

Tech titans like Jack Dorsey, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg have served as highly visible advocates for increasing visa quotas for certain skilled laborers, but the world of high-end software engineering is not the only one with a heavy reliance on a geographically fluid talent pool. Americans for the Arts, an arts advocacy nonprofit, announced last night that they have succeeded in securing the inclusion of the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act in the Obama-endorsed immigration bill now expected to pass the Senate.

Americans for the Arts have described the proposed legislation in an undated brief from earlier this year titled “Improving the Visa Process for Foreign Guest Artists at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.” The document lists three core disadvantages (“extremely harmful results”) to the current visa scheme for artists that the ARTS Act hopes to correct:

1. When foreign artists are unable to come to the United States, the American public is denied the opportunity to experience international artistry.

2. The absence of international guest artists costs American artists important employment opportunities.

3. Delays and unpredictability in the visa process create high economic risks for nonprofit arts institutions and the local economies they support.

The ARTS Act fixes these by reducing the total processing time required by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for O and P visa petitions filed for nonprofit arts-related matters. This is undoubtedly a positive development, though it would appear that this issue is what prompted the Department of Homeland Security/USCIS unpaid “job” posting we highlighted earlier this month. Oh, and the bill also includes a $46 billion border security amendment, money which will go toward some  Minutemen wet dream scenario involving impenetrable fences and border-patrolling drones. Steps forward, steps backward, etc.

If you’re interested in writing your political representatives about supporting the ARTS Act-containing immigration bill, consider checking out the virtual “Action Center” set up by Americans for the Arts. The bill will head to the House if it passes the Senate vote on Thursday.

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