Famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma seeks the simplification of non-immigration visa policy that over past years have made it difficult – and sometimes impossible – for musicians from other countries to enter the U.S. for work.
Speaking on behalf of his Silk Road Project, which he founded in 1998, Ma testified before Congress in April saying that the process for artists obtaining visas presents hassles that span months and can cost thousands of dollars. In his testimony, Ma pointed out that “With fewer of these barriers, our culture has the potential to offer so much.”
World music performers often operate on small budgets and either cannot afford the expediting cost of $1,000 to have their visas processed in a matter of weeks, or cannot wait the months it would take otherwise. The process also involves personal consular interviews that require three to five months’ wait and if necessary, flights at the artists’ expense.
Moreover, Ma said “Despite having completed all the paperwork, they are frequently shut out because of language barriers or cultural differences.”
Tony Edson of the State Department reported the creation of more than 500 consular jobs, and said the department has improved its technology and training of employees since September, 2001, and has proposed additional technological innovations to simplify the process.
Ma found a sympathetic ear in California Democrat Henry Waxman who said “In the long run, our security is enhanced and not diminished by the exchange of people and ideas.”