Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit


Home » Robert Baird » Crossing Borders: Time Is of the Essence

Crossing Borders: Time Is of the Essence

  -  President Baird Artists Management (BAM!)

Life is very busy and it is sometimes difficult to deal with things when we should. Musicians who are going to cross a border to perform need to know that time is of the essence dealing with requisite paperwork.

Q: I recently completed organizing a tour in the US and applied for a visa and an IRS Central Withholding Agreement (CWA). The tour begins in six weeks. I assume that I will get my visa and CWA in time.Can you advise?

Unfortunately, you will not be able to get a visa in time to perform in the US. Current delays in processing at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will affect the application. USCIS now has an eight-week backlog. This situation underlines the importance of allowing enough time for regular processing, let alone any other factors that could delay the process.

If you will be applying for an O or P visa to perform in the US, it would not be too early if you started your preparations a year in advance. The applications should be filed no later than six months before your first performance. This time frame allows for possible requests from USCIS for further information and documentation to accompany your application, as well as other processing delays that are beyond your control. USCIS does its best to process visa applications in two weeks, but you cannot count on this due to the high volume of visa applications it receives each day.

Obviously, it may not be possible to file so far in advance, but it is a good idea to file as soon as you can. Many visas are processed fairly quickly when there are no delays. If you are desperate for a quick visa approval, there is the option of Premium Processing for a fee of US$1,225, in addition to the regular processing fee of $325. This is a cost many artists cannot afford to pay. Premium Processing guarantees a response (but not necessarily an approval) from USCIS within 15 days. And for true emergency situations there is the possibility of obtaining an approval within 48 hours through the intervention of the office of a senator or congressional representative.

If you are applying for relief from US withholding via a CWA, you must submit your application no later than 45 days before your first US date or your application will be summarily rejected. There is absolutely no leeway allowed with this deadline. If your application is rejected, you will be charged the 30% withholding requirement.
In Canada, you can also apply for relief from the 15% Canadian withholding requirement by submitting an R-105 Waiver Application to Revenue Canada. The application should be submitted no later than 30 days before the first performance in Canada.

Time is also a factor for foreign artists filing taxation documents in the US and Canada. One of the requirements of both a CWA and an R-105 is the filing of  tax return for the year in which services were performed.

The deadline for filing a personal tax return in the US is April 15 of the following year and the deadline in Canada is April 30 of the following year. If you are a business the deadlines are March 16 in the US  and June 15 in Canada. If you had to issue any T4A-NR slips then you must file a T4A-NR Summary no later than the last day of February of the following year. Note that there are late filing penalties and accrued interest charges in Canada for failure to file tax documents on a timely basis.

Plan ahead to avoid difficulties.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to:
While I cannot answer every question in this column, I promise to answer every email I receive.


AFM Immigration Services

The AFM has been recognized by both US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as an authorized petitioner for temporary work permits on behalf of AFM member musicians. For P1, P3 and O1 Consultations, AFM provides the consultation letter required by the USCIS, but does not supply USCIS forms (see here for more information: You may also access information form the USCIS website:

Canadian members who wish to work in the US may be eligible for a Class P2 non-immigrant work permit. For more information on Immigration Visa Questions and Answers  Please note, at this time P2 permits are being processed within 75-90 days.

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