Touring the US Might Get Much More Expensive for International Musicians

US Homeland Security has proposed increasing short-term work visa fees by over 200 percent

Photo: Brass Ring Imagery

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Feb 2, 2023

As if touring wasn't already expensive enough, the US Department of Homeland Security has proposed to increase visa fees for international musicians.

While international musicians can tour in Canada for free, artists that don't reside in the US are required to file visa petitions to play shows there. And they could potentially see the costs of those touring visas more than tripled.

Per a blog post by Folk Music Ontario, the proposed increase will effect O and P visas, the latter being the short-term US work visa while the second subtype of the former can be granted to individuals with "extraordinary ability in the arts" for up to three years. 

Homeland Security is considering increasing the filing fees for O visa petitions by 260 percent — from $460 USD to $1,655. Fees for P visas, including P-2, would inflate by a similar 251 percent, from $460 to $1,615. Within the proposed changes, fees for "premium processing" of visa requests would remain $2,500.

"These price increases will hit smaller, independent, lower income and marginalized artists the most," tweeted Montreal independent artist and SSURROUNDSS label founder Tess Roby. "The impact this will have is massive."

Ellen Reade, drummer in Edmonton band Dead Friends, added on Instagram, "I know for so many of us, this makes touring the states completely financially inaccessible."

A lobbying group from the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) will meet with a representative of the United States Small Business Administration Advocate's Office today to make their case, citing factors like processing delays already forcing some to pay the already-unaffordable premium fees or otherwise have organizations give up on engaging international artists.

The CFM's Liana White is accepting email comments until 11 a.m. ET this morning ahead of the meeting, seeking real-world examples of community-based visa stakeholders. The organization is also asking any US artists, industry workers or organizations to file comments to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Federal Register Portal, which must remain open to public comment for 60 days — until March 6.

In an industry still grappling with the drastic economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian indie artists took another financial hit when SiriusXM axed CBC Radio 3 last fall.

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