Re “U.S. Visa Rules Deprive Stages of Performers” (front page, April 11):

As an organization devoted to a free exchange of literature and ideas around the world, PEN was pleased to receive assurances from the State Department last year that the administration, too, believes in the importance of “promoting the global marketplace of ideas.”

When considering visas for foreign writers and artists, we were told, the United States would give “significant and sympathetic weight” to those seeking to come to this country for speaking engagements, conferences, teaching positions “or for similar expressive or educational activities.”

As your report makes clear, these lofty intentions don’t match the experiences of a growing number of international artists who have had visas denied or delayed to the point that they missed planned tours and engagements.

The damage goes beyond canceled bookings: more and more artists are finding the visa process so discouraging that they are abandoning the idea of visiting what one of our prominent international colleagues called “fortress America.”

As the State Department itself acknowledges, artistic exchanges enrich the lives of Americans and ensure that the United States retains an influential place in the marketplace of culture and ideas.

President, PEN American Center
New York, April 12, 2012