*SoapBox* The gentle art of obtaining a US Visa for touring musicians...

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*SoapBox* The gentle art of obtaining a US Visa for touring musicians...

Post  Dinahkin on Mon 14 May 2018, 3:24 pm

I was wondering the other evening at silly o'clock because I couldn't sleep, what the process of applying for a musicians visa in the USA would actually be, given that the political climate has altered somewhat.  

I've seen lots of comment from fans who have decided in their infinite wisdom that the cancellation of the US/Canada element of the Dream Machine Tour was obviously the bands fault, singling out specific band members in particular for blame.. and I wondered if the potential facts stack up to that accusation - and guess what, they don't.
(quelle suprise)

According to the more vocal fan element, the band have been "selfish" in cancelling the tour, preventing fans from seeing the band on stage. There has been whining and gnashing of teeth and probably tearing of hair, due to the alleged selfishness of the bands decision, and many (in my opinion) irresponsible and uninformed accusations have been made by so called "fans".

I can understand the upset caused by having the tour cancelled, I don't understand the level of vitriol aimed at the band and individual band members as a result.

Do any of them have any idea about the complexities of getting a performance visa? I doubt it.. so I did some research, and touring the US by a non US based band is not the walk in the park that some fans seem to think it is..  

Bear in mind that this process applies to every individual on the tour, lighting, sound, instrument tech, catering, wardrobe. etc..

This is taken from the "Artists from Abroad" website -

"This is a practical guide to U.S. immigration law and procedures governing the principal non-immigrant work-related visa categories artists from abroad must use when entering the U.S. to work.”

"Non immigrants are subject to multiple sets of rules governing what they can do in the U.S. and for how long.  These sets of rules consist of non immigrant visa categories, denoted by letter, that now range from A through V.  All of these main categories have at least one sub-category, and some have several.  The O and P categories are among the few work-related classifications, and to acquire O or P classification, a U.S. petitioner must first file a petition with USCIS to qualify the alien (not the dependents, who are dealt with later in the process).

Our Filing Timeline outlines the many steps involved in the visa petition process.  Aliens seeking permission to work in the U.S. in O or P classification must first obtain USCIS approval of a petition filed with one of the two USCIS service centers. Obtaining petition approval takes time and planning. The petitioner - who cannot be the alien - must select the appropriate nonimmigrant classification, prepare the necessary forms, and gather the required evidence, including a union consultation if needed. The petitioner must know which of the two USCIS regional service centers to use, provide the correct filing fee, complete the forms properly, submit the correct number of copies, and file sufficiently far in advance of the required entry date to account for processing times, visa application times, and the unexpected. Following the rules carefully should yield an I-797 Approval Notice.

Once USCIS approves the petition, the alien then applies for a visa at a U.S. consular post abroad, unless no visa is required, as in the case of Canadian citizens.  The alien completes a visa application form, pays any necessary fees, and applies for a visa in the category selected. With the visa, the alien will be able to appear for inspection at a U.S. preflight inspection facility (PFI) or port of entry (POE) (an airport or a land border post) to be admitted in the appropriate status, for the required length of time. Once in the U.S., the alien might seek an extension of stay or a change of status by filing a petition or application."

"Multiple Venue Petitions
When an artist prepares to travel to the United States for an itinerary of engagements at multiple venues, one employer (one venue) traditionally has been able to file a single, comprehensive visa petition including all employers (venues) in the itinerary.
Contradicting nearly 20 years of established practice, on October 7, 2009, the USCIS announced a new policy revoking the ability of a U.S.-based employer to file a single petition for artists coming to the U.S. for an itinerary of events with multiple arts organizations – unless the petitioning employer is “in business as an agent.”

In response to concerns expressed by the national performing arts community, the USCIS has reinstated the ability of a petitioner to file a single petition for artists coming to the U.S. for an itinerary of events with multiple arts organizations. A November 20, 2009 USCIS memo offers some clarification for petitioners. While several questions remain unanswered, we offer the following guidance to immediately assist petitioners:

If an artist plans to travel to the U.S. for multiple engagements, and a single U.S. organization is submitting the visa petition, the petition must be carefully assembled to satisfy new USCIS requirements. The petitioner does not have to demonstrate that it normally serves as “an agent” outside of the petition process. Instead, per USCIS, a statement signed by the various venues included in the petition may establish that the petitioner is authorized to act as agent for the limited purpose of filing the petition with USCIS. The artist will also need to complete a similar form for a petition that involves multiple employers. We have crafted sample forms that lead petitioners should consider including:
Form: Appointment of Agent by Employer (must be completed by each additional employer and must be a separate document, not part of a contract or other material)
Form: Appointment of Agent by Foreign Artist/Group

In addition, USCIS requests the following evidence:

• A complete itinerary of the event or events, specifying the dates of each service or engagement, the names and addresses of the actual employers, and the names and addresses of the establishments, venues, or locations where the services will be performed.

• The contracts between the employers and the beneficiary.

• If a written contract does not exist, an explanation of the terms and conditions of the employment.

USCIS warns that multiple-employer petitions filed by any petitioner that does not establish that it has been appointed to file the petition will be approved only for the period of time covering the petitioner’s direct employment of the artist.
The national performing arts community continues to press for clarity regarding the documentation required to accompany petitions. In the meantime, following the guidance above may prevent petition rejections or time-consuming re-filing for engagements not included in a truncated petition approval.

If an itinerary with multiple venues is involved, the itinerary should list confirmed dates (with or without contracts), dates under negotiation, dates in which presenters have expressed an interest, and even projected dates based on past experience and relationships. The attached documentation may include signed contracts, unsigned contracts, draft contracts, letters of intent, supporting emails, and any other means of documenting that a given date may occur. Many petitioners routinely add a few extra days to the end of the requested classification period to accommodate the unexpected or to enable the artist to wind down. The ability of any type of petitioner to proffer such an itinerary to USCIS is an additional incentive to cumulate all the information on a single petition, thus increasing the chances of a longer approval period.  As noted in our section on Classification Periods, gaps of more than 45 to 60 days raise concerns and it is best to avoid lengthy gaps when possible, or to fully document the activity that will take place outside of the U.S. during any lengthy gap.

When submitting an itinerary-based petition, be sure to use our sample cover letter, which includes language clarifying that additional engagements may be added. Also, remember to check the service center jurisdiction guidance on employment in more than one location to determine whether to file at the California or Vermont Service Center. "

For the purposes of the "petition" required..

"For O-1B purposes, the definition of arts, and thus artists, is broad: any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to, fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts. Aliens engaged in the field of arts include not only the principal creators and performers but other essential persons such as, but not limited to, directors, set designers, lighting designers, sound designers, choreographers, choreologists, conductors, orchestrators, coaches, arrangers, musical supervisors, costume designers, makeup artists, fight masters, stage technicians, and animal trainers.

"Arts" is thus a term of art that encompasses a full range of people, not necessarily principal creators or performers, but "above the line" in that they exercise creative judgment and apply imagination to the enhancement or preservation of a creative act. Under this definition, artistic administrators, music teachers, vocal coaches, and many others who contribute to the creative process may qualify for O-1B status. Even a highly skilled craftsman, such as a stage technician who contributes to the creative process, may do so."

(Source http://www.artistsfromabroad.org)

Clear as mud right?
... as I understand it, it basically means that a "petitioner" i.e. a concert promoter, files a "petition" with the US Homeland Security to request that a concert tour takes place, then each individual on that tour has to apply separately for permission to enter the US and then for permission to work. That’s a logistical nightmare in my opinion.

As for why the Canadian and potential Lat-Am part of the tours were also cancelled, I found this gem...

"Finally, by agreement with the Department of State, aliens in the U.S. may travel to Canada and Mexico for 30 days or less, and, if they do not travel from those countries to a third country first, they may re-enter the U.S. solely on the basis of the remaining validity on their I-94. Their visa, if expired, will be considered revalidated to the date of entry. They must continue to have an unexpired, valid passport, however. Also, this exception does NOT apply if while in Canada or Mexico, the alien applies for another U.S. visa.  In that case, the alien must await the outcome of the visa application"

(Source http://www.artistsfromabroad.org)

…which might explain it all. If the US visa process was where the "logistical difficulty" was, difficulty with that would preclude the tour going to the US and subsequently travelling to either Canada or Lat-Am from the US. If there was no separate application made to Canada/Lat-Am, or if that hinged on the US visas etc... again, bingo, logistical difficulty.

So, to address fan whinges about the tour cancellation.

The reason cited was "logistical difficulties" - not too hard to understand given the hoops outlined above that people on a concert tour have to jump through.

It also appears that the onus for arranging/organising a concert tour lies with the tour promoter, not the band itself, which would explain why the initial notices regarding the tour cancellation for logistical reasons came from promoters and venues. It's quite likely that they were aware of the "logistical difficulties" before the band was.

And the apology from the band that so many demanded (it "obviously" being "the bands fault" that fans were unable to go and see them ... *rolls eyes*) ?

Well, that apology was given very quickly after the promoter/venue cancellation notices, as was a commitment for refund and my understanding is that those refunds were paid expediently.

In short, when a European band (or any other band from outside the US) attempts to organise a tour within the US, there are a shed load of bureaucratic paperwork to plough through and they can't just decide to tour, there has to be an "invitation" by way of a promoter from within the US.  That promoter has responsibility for approaching the appropriate official bodies to gain permission for the tour to take place and on top of that each individual member of the tour must also approach the official bodies for permission to enter the country, travel and work within it as part of the tour.

Lots of jigsaw puzzle pieces and lots of logistical difficulties to overcome.

As fans, we are not owed an explanation of what the logistical difficulty was that derailed the American/Canadian/Lat-Am leg of the Dream Machine tour was.

We have no right to know if key personnel in any of the elements were experiencing difficulty or whether the logistical issues were Stateside... all we were entitled to was regarding any refund, and that was given, along with an apology from the band which technically wasn't necessary as logistical difficulties are no ones responsibility, other than the bureaucratic nightmare that may have created them.

Research, I love it.

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