Massive Hike in U.S. Visa Fees for Performers Prompts U.K. Entertainment Industry Outcry

Update: U.K. performers’ union Equity have also opposed the proposed fee increase. “These increases could have a serious impact on the ability of our members to work in the United States and Equity would echo the concerns of other trade unions and engagers across the industry who have called for them to be reconsidered,” said Equity general secretary Paul W Fleming. “As our industries recover from the global pandemic, now is not the time to restrict centuries of U.K.-U.S. cultural collaboration.”

Previously: U.K. entertainment industry bodies are taking action after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quietly proposed hiking U.S. performer visa fees in January.

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Under the proposals, the P visa, a touring visa most commonly used by international music artists, is set to rise from $460 to $1,615 (a price hike of 251%) while the O visa, a longer-term work visa for established performers which typically lasts a maximum of three years, would go from $460 to $1,655, an increase of 260%. Both visas would also require an additional $600 surcharge.

Now a plethora of entertainment bodies including the Association of British Orchestras, the Musicians’ Union and the Independent Society of Musicians have written to Kemi Badenoch, the U.K. Secretary of State for business and trade, asking her to appeal to the U.S. to reconsider the fees.

“The impact of these changes is huge,” they wrote in a letter addressed to Badenoch. “With the ongoing cost of living crisis and the live sector still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, such increases would make it unaffordable for many British acts to work and perform in the world’s biggest music market.”

According to the letter, 70% of music industry professionals surveyed by the LetTheMusicMove campaign said they would not be able to tour the U.S. due to the visa changes, with the costs potentially wiping out over a third of any potential profits a tour might make.

As well as a price hike, the DHS has also proposed increasing the time for premium processing (which costs $2,500 per petition) from 15 calendar days to 15 working days and changing the number of individuals permitted on a single visa petition at 25, meaning multiple petitions would be required for large ensembles.

As an example, the letter states that an 80-strong international orchestra wanting to tour the U.S. would require four petitions, each costing $1,615 – and that wouldn’t include support staff such as managers and stage crew. If the orchestra required premium processing of five visas (four for members of the orchestra and one for crew) that would cost an additional $12,500.

“America is one of the most important global markets for British musicians, and breaking into the States can be critical to a musician or band’s career – but this increase in visa fees risks making a US tour unaffordable for emerging acts,” said Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO of U.K. Music. “These deeply damaging proposals would be catastrophic, both for U.K. artists and for their American audiences who have a huge appetite for British music. These plans must be scrapped. The U.K. and U.S. have enjoyed decades of mutually beneficial musical exchange that have strengthened our special relationship and brought huge social, cultural and economic benefits. We should be making it easier for musicians to tour the States, not harder.”

Read the full letter here.

(Pictured above: Florence Welch performing at The Forum in L.A. in 2018)

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