imageThe Issue: Cultural Exchange

Americans for the Arts has issued a Statement on Immigration and Refugee Ban in addition the items below. Americans for the Arts stands in opposition to policies that limit the free exchange of art, artists, and ideas based on nationality, faith, race, age or ability—and deplores the discriminatory nature of this travel ban.

While there are many aspects the contribute to successful cultural exchange programs, there are two issues severely impact that success and growth of such programs.

Inconsistent processing of foreign artists’ visa applications by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

At a time when global cultural exchange is of great value to United States interests, artists and nonprofit arts organizations have confronted uncertainty in gaining approval for foreign guest artist visa petitions. These difficulties are due to lengthy processing times, inconsistent interpretation of statute and implementation of policies, expense, and unwarranted requests for further evidence. The nature of scheduling, booking, and confirming highly sought-after guest soloists and performing groups requires that the timing of the visa process be efficient and reliable.

The nonprofit arts community has supported the enactment of the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision, which would improve visa processing for foreign guest artists preparing to perform in the United States. In June 2018, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) re-introduced the provision as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, but there has been no similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

A lack of funding for the Cultural Programs Division of the State Department’s Office of Citizen Exchanges, resulting in difficulties in cultural exchanges.

The Cultural Programs Division within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department focuses on cultural diplomacy, exchange, and collaboration by sharing the rich artistic traditions of the United States in the visual arts, performing arts, film, arts education, arts management, and cultural studies. The Cultural Programs Division provides grant opportunities to U.S. nonprofits for:

  • cultural exchange activities,
  • residencies, mentoring, and training programs,
  • programs that are carried out overseas by or under the sponsorship of U.S. Embassy public diplomacy offices, and
  • presentations at major international visual arts exhibitions and cultural centers.

Advocacy efforts are focused on increasing appropriations for these State Department public diplomacy programs.

 U.S. Department of State SealForward Toward Solutions

  1. Find more details in the Cultural Exchange (pdf) and Visa Processing (pdf) Issue Briefs in the Congressional Arts Handbook.
  2. Two fundamental resources for Cultural Exchange:
    1. A 1956 speech (pdf, 326 KB) by former ambassador George F. Kennan on the importance of international exchange in the arts.
    2. A 2009 report (pdf, 368 KB) from the John Brademas Center recommending that international arts and cultural exchanges be integrated into the planning strategies of U.S. policymakers as a key element of public diplomacy
  3. Key Senate and House Committees for Visa Processing Issues.
  4. Key Senate and House Committees for Cultural Exchange Funding.
  5. Need help with a guest artist visa application? Check out Artists From Abroad for helpful information.
  6. Visit our International topic page for more information on Americans for the Arts' work abroad.