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 » Traveling Musician » Crossing X Borders: The Basics of Immigration for Touring

Crossing X Borders: The Basics of Immigration for Touring


Welcome to a new column in International Musician that will focus on the complexities of international touring in North America. It will assist AFM members form the US touring in Canada and Canadian AFM (CFM) members touring in the US.

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly difficult to navigate the many regulatory requirements, which makes international touring difficult. For Canadians, the USCIS work visa rules in regard to “aliens” being allowed into the US continue to create impediments to successful touring. For Americans touring to Canada, the situation is somewhat easier, but still beset with many regulations that must be addressed. Here is a letter a musician sent me:

Dear Crossing Borders,

     I recently had to cross into the United States to perform a gig. I had my AFM P-2 visa approval with me, but the border agent was extremely aggressive and suspicious. He questioned me closely and didn’t seem to believe why I was entering the country, even with the documentation. I had my luggage searched and he even went through the calendar on my Blackberry! Is this typical? Can you suggest any way to avoid getting this kind of treatment?

Have Clarinet, Will Travel

I wouldn’t say that this was typical of border crossings, but it can occur. Unfortunately, your border crossing experience may be somewhat dependent on the personality and/or mood of the border crossing official with whom you deal, and your particular port of entry. It may have been that the official was having a bad day, or that something you said raised a suspicion in his or her mind. My advice when crossing the border is to answer only the questions asked, and to do so as directly and succinctly as possible. Do not offer information. Show documents, letters, etc., only when asked to do so. Be polite, honest, and cooperative. In addition, seasoned travelers should choose crossings where they have previously had a good crossing experience.

The AFM continues to be of inestimable benefit to Canadian members touring into the US with its P-2 visa program, but even that program can run afoul of delays in USCIS processing. It is my intention in this column to assist AFM members, on both sides of the border, to understand what is required to successfully tour internationally, and to give them the tools with which to do so in either Canada or the US.

So, let’s start with the basics: the importance of time and one thing you must never do. The processing of applications through government agencies often takes longer than one might expect. Today, the time to process any kind of visa in the US is stated to be (on the USCIS website) two weeks. The actual time is more like four to six weeks, and even then, most applications are being held up with requests for additional documentation. For the P-2 visa through the AFM, the recommendation is that you allow at least 45 days for processing. If you are fortunate enough to get a gig you can’t refuse and need to get visas in a hurry, there is a premium processing option whereby you pay an additional $1,225 and the permit will be processed in approximately two weeks. Knowing the required time for the processing of documents can help you plan your work and make you an informed touring artist.

The one thing you must never do is to lie and cross the border to work in another country without going through the required and proper channels. You may think that you can cross as a tourist, do the gig, and the authorities will never know. Unfortunately, there is the Internet and border guards have access to it in their booths. A simple Google search of your name may alert them to the fact that you are not the simple tourist you appear to be, but are a performing musician with an announced gig. American border officials can ban noncitizens from the US immediately (“expedited removals”), if they think the traveler is misrepresenting what they intend to do while in the country. The ban can be up to five years. Lying to a Canadian border officer will result in a multi-year ban as well. It’s really not worth the risk.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: While I cannot answer every question I receive in this column, I will feature as many as I can and I promise to answer each and every e-mail I receive.

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