24. ONLY THE BRITISH PHILHARMONIC NEED APPLY
In August, 1986, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
proposed new immigration regulations which threaten to prevent most new and relatively
unknown foreign performers from playing in the U.S.
Under current immigration
law, foreign performers must prove they are of "distinguished merit and ability"
or have "preeminent status" in their field in order to obtain a visa
to perform here. Until now, it has been left to individual INS adjudicators to
determine whether or not specific performers or groups meet these criteria.
under the guise of standardizing the regulations, the INS has come up with a strict
set of rules concerning the eligibility of foreign artists to obtain visas. Included
in the criteria are evidence of national or international acclaim, extensive commercial
successes, and high salaries. The effect of these new rules will be to prevent
most lesser known foreign performers from entering the U.S.
bands like ACDC and Genesis will have no problem getting visas to play here. But
the majority of musicians playing such non main-stream music as Jamaican reggae,
African pop, European jazz, British Isles and Middle Eastern folk, Latin American
Cancion, as well as underground British rock, will have an extremely difficult,
if not impossible, time getting into the United States.
The INS always has
had (and often abused) the power to keep foreign artists and performers out of
the U.S. The difference now, if these new regulations are enacted, is that their
power will be more clear-cut, well-defined, even greater, and considerably more
difficult to get around.
Randall Grass, of Shanachie Records (a well-respected
record company specializing in reggae) said "They really don't know how stupid
they are. They really think this is how to determine if people are notable. They
don't understand that the most important artist in the world might sell only 10,000
The one good thing about these proposed regulations is that they have
not yet become law. The INS is still considering them and says it welcomes
public comment. But unless the public know about them, they can't comment
on them. And the media have not yet brought this issue to the public's
this -- the Beatles and the Rolling Stones used to be "underground"
British rock, and, had these regulations existed in 1964, they may never have
made it to the United States.
THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN,
11/5/86, "Slamming the door on culture," by Derk Richardson, pp 1, 29+.