U.S. Visa Hike May Impact Future Mobility of Touring Musicians

A proposed increase in visa costs for entertainers by the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), may make it considerably more costly for musicians to travel and work within the U.S.

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Creating a potential barrier for touring musicians, the new policy, which may take effect as early as November 2023, will nearly triple the cost of visas for international artists, raising the rates for O and P visas for entertainers working in the U.S. The policy includes musicians playing concerts, festivals, and events. 

Under the new guidelines, first published on January 4, 2023, O-1 visas for “individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement” will increase from $460 to $1,655, while the P-2 visas for individual or group performers will also increase from $460 to $1,615. 

The exorbitant hike may impact consumers with even higher-priced tickets and make it difficult for artists to tour specific U.S. concert venues.

The USCIS first proposed the visa changes in January 2023 and argued that the new rates were necessary as a result of increased costs at the agency.

In response to the proposed hike, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) launched a letter-writing campaign for artists to speak out against the policy. The campaign has already gathered letters from artists, including Primal Scream’s Simone Marie Butler, The Weather Station, and Ducks Ltd., among others.

“In an industry still recovering from the severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proposed fee increases will make it impossible for many international artists to perform in the U.S.,” reads a portion of the UMAW statement for the letter campaign. “The cost of the current visas were already prohibitive for many, but the rising costs associated with touring paired with the tripled cost of a visa will severely impact the desire and ability for international artists to perform here, affecting lower-income and marginalized artists the most.”

The United Kingdom has started a similar campaign, Let the Music Move, which is encouraging British musicians, who have been impacted by Brexit and setbacks with visa complications, to get their voices heard.

Photo: Gettyimages.com

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