Inside Move: Visa vexation

Bookers battle new rules for foreign talent

As if the post-9/11 visa regs to enter the U.S. weren’t stringent enough, concert programmers and bookers are now bracing for even tighter restrictions — and higher costs to bring in foreign talent.

As of Aug. 1, non-immigrant U.S. visitors are required to have an in-person interview at an American consulate prior to their trip stateside.

And in October visitors from Western Europe (a visa waiver zone) will have to have machine-readable passports, which can take several weeks to obtain.

Both measures are causing backlogs of up to six months.

Robert Browning, exec and artistic director of Gotham’s World Music Institute, which presents about 60 concerts at halls in Manhatttan, is non-plussed. “It’s going to mean massively increased costs,” he says.

Case in point is an annual flamenco fest, for which Browning has jumped through hoops.

“We had to transport 40, 50 artists from the south of Spain up to Madrid (and) put them in a hotel overnight because the U.S. consulate’s hours are between 9 and 11 a.m.,” he recalls.

On the West Coast, Laura Connelly-Schneider, program manager for jazz and world music for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, says the new visa hurdles will affect programming.

“If there’s any sense of someone coming from a country that might be problematic, I’ll think twice,” she says. “I can’t afford to have people drop out for the Hollywood Bowl. It’s hard to find a replacement at the last minute.”