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January 31, 2020IM -
The financial cost that Canadian musicians must currently undertake in order to perform in the US may soon increase drastically. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed increasing its fees, and implementing administrative changes for the O and P visas required for international guest artists performing in the United States.
The proposed changes were announced in November after the DHS biennial review determined that current fees do not recover the full costs of providing adjudication and naturalization services. It was also determined that “adjustments to the fee schedule are necessary to recover the full operating costs associated with administering the nation’s immigration benefits system, safeguarding its integrity, and efficiently and fairly adjudicating immigration benefit requests,” according to the DHS.
A public written comment period was offered until December 31, 2019. On December 16, AFM signed onto the Performing Artist Visa Task Force (PAVTF) letter to DHS, which vehemently opposed the increases, and spoke to the burdens the proposed administrative changes would have on all adjudicators across the US.
Note: the PAVTF is an ad hoc committee of US-based performing arts associations. The AFM has worked closely with PAVTF on visa-lobbying issues since its formation in 2001.
According to Liana White, executive director of the AFM Canadian Office, here are the main facts to understand about the proposed changes:
The proposed increase for the O visa classification may be up to 55%, from $460 to $715 (maximum); the P visa classifications may be up to 53%, from $460 to $705 (maximum). The last fee increase for these visa applications (from $320 to $460) was just four years ago, in 2016.
Orchestras and large ensembles/touring groups of over 25 persons would take the biggest hit, as a proposed administrative change would require such ensembles to submit two or more petitions. So, a 60-member orchestra would have to submit three separate petitions to cover the one touring ensemble.
The Immigration and Nationality Act specifically states that all O and P visa classifications should be adjudicated (approval or denial) within 14 calendar days. However, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which adjudicates the visa petitions, does not adhere to its legislation, a matter that the AFM, both independently and together with the PAVTF, has been actively attempting to combat since June 2001.
Since the Premium Processing Unit was implemented in 2001, the processing of all files that were submitted under standard processing took up to 120 days. Although, in 2016 (after a 42% fee increase), the processing time reduced down to approximately 45 calendar days and has been consistent ever since. The AFM recommends providing 60 calendar days to be on the safe side.
Premium Processing comes with an additional price tag of $1,440 (USD). USCIS has also proposed that the Premium Processing Unit will now adjudicate within 15 business days, versus 15 calendar days—a further burden.
White added, “Thankfully, Canadian citizens still have a bit of an easier process than anyone else coming into the US from any other country. Those entering the US from anywhere outside of Canada, and musicians who hold permanent residence status in Canada, must first be processed through a US consulate, requiring additional time, paperwork, and fees.”
The AFM’s Canadian Office (CFM) will continue to do whatever possible to make this process an easier one for musicians. Unfortunately, there is an imbalance in that US performers can enter Canada to perform limited time engagements with little to no trouble, but the process for Canadians to do the same in the US is more difficult, making the US process seem even more egregious.
There are many flaws with this still relatively new entry process to Canada. Most importantly, there is no regulation of payment requirements for foreign artists entering, which inevitably will result in Canadians losing work to musicians from the US or abroad.
As of press time, DHS had not announced if the proposed changes were final or if alterations would be made based on public comment. DHS also has not said when the changes would be implemented.
For more information about US work permits for Canadian musicians, call the Canadian office at 416-391-5161 (toll free: 1-800-463-6333) or visit www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-permits.