UK Music’s Deputy Chief Executive Tom Kiehl has welcomed a move by US authorities to pause plans for a massive hike in the cost of visas for UK touring musicians and crew.
Responding to the news, Tom Kiehl said:
“UK Music is pleased that damaging proposals to severely increase US visa petition fees have been paused. The US is a key market for UK acts and breaking America is as important now to artists’ careers as it was in the days of The Beatles.
“We will continue to work with music industry bodies from both the UK and overseas to ensure touring in the US is affordable for all performers and their crew.”
His comments follow reports that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the US Department of Homeland Security have agreed to delay the implementation of a visa rate hike that would have hit touring musicians and crew from the UK.
The proposals announced in January would have seen huge hikes to ‘O’ and ‘P’ work visas which are needed for musicians working in the United States.
The proposed increase would have seen the current petition fee rise from $460 to $1,655 (260%) for a regularly processed ‘O’ visa and go up to $1,615 (a 251% rise) for a regularly processed ‘P’ visa.
UK Music member the Musicians’ Union warned that the change would “in one stroke, render the ability for artists to work in the United States unaffordable.” 70% of artists, managers and performing musicians who responded to a recent MMF/FAC survey said the increased costs associated with these visa changes meant they would no longer be able to tour the USA. Data from LIVE shows that these proposals will put 50% of all UK tours of the USA under threat.
Another proposed change that would cap the amount of people on any petition will be capped at 25 would have required multiple petitions and fees for a single ensemble – hitting the ability for orchestras and large ensembles, including crews, to tour the US. For example, under the proposals, a visiting orchestra comprising 110 musicians, plus a handful of accompanying support staff would require six visa petitions rather than two.
According to the Consequence website, the USCIS is now delaying the rate hike until at least March 2024 and is considering lowering the rate increase altogether.
It reported that Stephen Parker, Executive Director of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), warned the “USCIS proposal to drastically increase visa fees for international performers poses a severe economic and cultural threat to independent live entertainment in the U.S”.
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