Photos by Ben Kaye
Touring is a daunting process for musicians at any level, what with traveling expenses, crew costs, and equipment prices. But the challenge and overhead is even greater for international acts trying to perform in the United States thanks to tariffs and taxes, not to mention the visa process. Our own David Sackllah warned that things were only going to get tougher in his piece “The Uphill Battle of International Touring”, and now his prognostication has come true.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently revealed an increase in certain fees associated with immigration applications and petitions. Included in the fee hikes is Form I-129, a required petition for nonimmigrant actors, artists, athletes, and musicians entering the States for work. As of December 20th, the fee for the form will rise 42% from $325 to $460 per
person act. That means artists will now have to pay $135 more than they have in the past just to apply to play in the US.
Since I-129 applies to any band traveling across borders, the increase could have a majorly restrictive impact on musicians’ ability to perform in the United States. While this likely won’t be the biggest of issues for bands the size of Radiohead or Arcade Fire, the Hinds and Alvvays of the world will undoubtedly feel the sting.
Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the fee increase would apply to each person. In actuality, it will apply to the band as a whole, regardless of how many individual members there are. It also does not apply to members of the crew, though a separate fee undergoing the same increase does. Again, the one fee will cover every member of the crew, regardless of how many people are involved.
Although Canadian artists entering the States often have an easier time with applications than other international bands, even our neighbors to the north find the new levies unreasonable. “…A fee surge of this kind adds an additional and unacceptable financial burden on our members,” the Canadian Federation of Musicians said in a statement responding to the new fees (via Billboard).
The USCIS and those in the US nonprofit arts sector with a stake in their operations are scheduled to meet on November 2nd. Members of the CFM will be in attendance to “urge USCIS to respond to its current lack of quality in service, and to press for vast improvements and consistency in processing times — especially now considering the substantial fee hikes.”