US to hike foreign artist visa fees by 50%

Visas used by touring musicians and foreign talent will be affected from 2 October

Foreign artists wanting to work in the US will have to contend with higher visa application fees and longer processing times beginning 2 October, 2020.

The fee increases will affect petitions for both O and P visas, which are usually applied for by US non-profit arts organisations to bring musicians into the country.

The P visa lasts for one year and is regularly used by touring musicians and stage talent, while the O visa lasts for three years. Both require either a US resident or employer to act as a petitioner.

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Filing fees for O visa petitions – which cover “Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement” – will steeply increase from $460 to $705, a rise of 53 per cent.

Applying for a P visa – which is also used by the families of entertainers and athletes – will cost 51 per cent more, increasing from $460 to $695.

As well as fee hikes, changes have been made to the number of people covered by a single petition. Each is now capped at 25 individuals, meaning that larger ensembles, such as a 90-piece orchestra will have to apply for four visas to cover its members.

The US Citizenship And Immigration Services (USCIS) has also changed the processing time for its Premium Processing Service from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. This is a $1,440 service for organisations to fast-track visa processing.

The proposal has drawn criticism from the arts sector, with one commenter saying that the move would “diminish the quality of arts in the United States,” pointing out that “artists would be unable to afford to tour and make a living from their craft.”

However, according to the DHS, the new fees are “intended to recover the estimated full cost to USCIS of providing immigration adjudication and naturalisation services.”

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Even with that being the case, any increase in visa fees could be painted as being part of a wider isolationist, America-first agenda (see TikTok).

Furthermore, when this change was initially proposed in November 2019, the world was a very different place. In pre-COVID-19 America, international travel was commonplace and the live music industry was booming.

Right now, with travel strictly curtailed, the effects of this change may not be immediately felt. But, when it comes time for the remaining venues to open again post-pandemic, this development could make kickstarting the industry much harder.

Read the entire DHS rule here.

For more industry news, click here.

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