I am exploring the idea of starting a not-for-profit called ACE: Artistic and Cultural Exchange which aims to foster greater international artistic and cultural exchange through advocacy, research, and facilitation support.

Taken in İstanbul, on August 25, 2006 Used courtesy of http://flickr.com/photos/tinou/ via a cc2.0 share-alike licenseInternational artistic and cultural exchanges foster greater understanding and can leverage true change between people coming together across many miles, disciplines, cultures, faiths and beliefs. There are currently two international issues affecting the arts community: prohibitive restrictions by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on foreign artists obtaining visas, and a lack of funding for the Cultural Programs Division of the State Department’s Office of Citizen Exchanges, resulting in difficulties in cultural exchanges. Let’s work together in eliminating these obstacles to global dialogue through the arts.

This is a new initiative for me – so I welcome your ideas and feedback as to what services would best aid you and/or your organization toward successful artistic and cultural exchanges.

I see ACE serving these primary functions:

WOMAD 2006, Reading, UK Photographer: Damian Rafferty Credit: http://flickr.com/photos/flykr/ via cc 2.0 license

  • Advocacy: Action area to educate and advocate for governmental policy changes in the area of international artist visas and taxation, plus cultural exchange.

  • Research
    : Both research on cultures/countries to prepare for exchanges, plus research on the value of artistic exchange in glocal dialogue.

  • Facilitation: Visa petition filing services, taxation consultation, and eventual matching of artists/presenters (possibly as an extension of NEFA‘s Matchbook)

  • Funding: Initially, this will be links and news on grants and foundations, but the eventual hope would be to establish a fund to help with associated costs (petitions filing fees, travel expenses, interpreters, etc.)

Make yourself at home and please share your ideas and experiences.  You can also explore my beta group and cause at Razoo.

Courtesy of Americans for the Arts Action Center:

Federal: Tell Congress to Ease Restrictions on Foreign Artists and Cultural Exchanges
Help Insure Reasonable Rules for Visas and Cultural Exchange

There are currently two international issues affecting the arts community: prohibitive restrictions by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on foreign artists obtaining visas, and a lack of funding for the Cultural Programs Division of the State Department’s Office of Citizen Exchanges, resulting in difficulties in cultural exchanges.

At a time when international cultural exchange is of great value to United States interests, nonprofit arts organizations confront untenable delays, unreasonable fees, and other uncertainties in getting approval for visa petitions for foreign guest artists. Members of Congress should be urged to contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and urge immediate adoption of the several common sense administrative reforms that will ensure timely processing of nonprofit arts-related visa petitions.

To learn more about immigration issues and cultural exchange, read our international issues brief. You may also wish to read the speech that George F. Kennan delivered to the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1956. Perhaps the most influential American diplomat of the post-war era and former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Kennan’s thoughts on the importance of international exchange in the arts resonate now more than ever.

Take action now here, and thanks!

Visa Petition Fee Increases JULY 30, 2007.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a substantial increase in petition filing fees, effective for petitions postmarked on or after July 30, 2007. The Premium Processing fee remains $1,000.

  • The fee for the regular I-129 petition for a nonimmigrant worker will increase from $190 to $320.
  • The fee for the I-539 petition to extend/change status (used for spouses and dependents) will increase from $200 to $300.
  • The fee for the I-824 petition for action on an approved application or petition (usually used to request a duplicate I-797 notice of approval) will increase from $200 to $340.

A complete fee schedule is available on the USCIS site. To avoid delays in processing, please note the fee change and plan accordingly.


File Petitions Up to One Year in Advance!

As of May 16, 2007 visa petitioners may submit I-129 applications for O or P visas up to a maximum of one year in advance of their need for the foreign artist’s services. Previously, the earliest petitioners may file is only up to 6 months in advance of a performance. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made this rule change at the urging of the nonprofit performing arts community. Extending the earliest filing date from 6 to 12 months may provide relief for those petitioners prepared to file far in advance of a performance. Remember—file petitions as early as possible to be spared the $1,000 Premium Processing fee and to allow more time for consular processing to be completed.


 

Filing Addresses Changed on April 2, 2007!

The locations for filing artist visa petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently changed. Petitions filed after April 2 should be mailed to either the California Service Center or Vermont Service Center, depending on the location of the petitioner. Presently, all I-129 and I-539 visa petitions are mailed directly to the California Service Center for processing. After April 17, petitions filed to the incorrect address will be rejected and returned to the petitioner. Please see our USCIS Service Center Tips and Contact Information for complete information about the new locations for filing petitions.

California Service Center (CSC)—Petitioners Located in the Following States:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Vermont Service Center (VSC)—Petitioner Located in the Following States:
Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia

I recently received the following Arts Action Alert from Americans for the Arts. My regular readers know my thoughts and concerns related to presenting artists from abroad. This 68% proposed increase in petition fees is completely unacceptable considering the current problems with USCIS processing, as well as the significant impact it will have on the not-for-profit organizations often presenting these artists.

You can help by contacting your legislators. American Arts Alliance even provides a pre-written letter for you, you just need to add your name and address and press “send.” The actual campaign letter from the Arts Alliance is below. And if you are interested in receiving future alerts yourself, use the box below to subscribe.

   

USCIS Proposes an Increase in Visa Processing Fees

We need your help. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a proposed increase in visa processing fees for O and P visas. This proposed rule would increase the Form I-129 filing fee (from $190 to $320) and the Form I-824 filing fee (from $200 to $340). These new fees would increase the financial burden U.S. nonprofit performing arts petitioners already suffer when booking foreign guest artists.

We are opposed to the proposed increase of the filing fees for nonimmigrant worker petitions. It is our position that before the USCIS contemplates any price increase, regular processing procedures for our community must be improved.

Since 2001, the American Arts Alliance and its colleagues in the Performing Arts Visa Task Force have been working to persuade USCIS to make the O and P visa process efficient, reliable, and affordable. We believe that American nonprofit arts organizations provide an important public service by presenting foreign guest artists in performances, educational events and cultural programs in communities across the country. The delays and unpredictability in visa processing have made it increasingly difficult for international artists to appear in the United States. USCIS should not consider a fee increase without first improving regular processing procedures.

This is a proposed rule, which means it is not in effect yet and there is time to get it changed. A federal agency drafts proposed regulations and publishes them in the Federal Register. The public may then offer their concerns and objections during the “public comment period.” After the public comment period, the agency examines the comments and issues its final regulations and the timetable for their implementation.

The time for public comment is now! Please submit comments on behalf of your organization by April 2, 2007. Below is a sample letter to help you in submitting comments.

Please edit the letter to reflect your personal experience with visa processing and include the docket number – DHS No. USCIS-2006-0044 – in your comments.

Sincerely,
American Arts Alliance

October 2014
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