Recently, Iran’s state controlled media has begun launching videos that feature rappers delivering their propaganda messages. In one such video, a well-known Iranian rapper sings on the deck of a navy frigate. Another raps about Iranian power; flags are waving in the background while soldiers sing along and stomp their feet. A sign of the times, Iran’s propaganda machine realizes that it must embrace the latest trends and technologies in order to reach the new generation of young adults.
My company is hosting an event in Whistler, B.C., and will be employing an American band as entertainment for the event. I understand that they will need a Letter of Invitation, but does the band need to show a contract for performance at customs? Do you see any other issues with them crossing?
Any border crossing is fraught with several “issues.” In order to facilitate the border crossing of an American band into Canada, the following issues should be considered:
- Obviously, a passport or other acceptable form of travel document will be required at the border.
- A Letter of Invitation from the employer in Canada is required because the band members will be considered as business visitors. The letter must include information about the person(s) being invited including full names, dates of birth (if known), purpose of the trip, and length of time in Canada. The Letter of Invitation should be on organizational letterhead and include a brief description of the event, as well as the employer, and be signed by a responsible person in the organization. If group members are not arriving together, everyone in the group should have a copy of the Letter of Invitation.
- In addition to the Letter of Invitation, an American group coming into Canada should have with them a copy of their performance contract.
- At the border, the group members will normally be asked the purpose of their trip, how long they will be in Canada, where they will be staying, what they do for a living, and if they have anything to declare. They may have to confirm that they will be returning to the US (showing a return flight reservation, for example).
- If the group is bringing in equipment into the country, then they should, at the very least, have an itemized inventory of the gear. Also, get the list stamped at US Customs before entering Canada, so that when the group returns to the US, there will be no problems bringing the equipment back into the country.
- If the group is bringing in CDs or other promotional items, they need to be declared at the border and properly labeled with country of manufacture. Having a copy of the manufacturing invoice is recommended. Customs duties may apply, based on the manufacturing price, not on the sale price. If the items are for promotional purposes they should be labeled: “For Promotion ONLY; Not for Sale.”
- If anyone in the group has a criminal record (felony or misdemeanor), including past driving under the influence (DUI) violations, this may impede entry. If it has been less than five years since a charge or conviction, persons will be deemed “criminally inadmissible” to Canada and a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is required, instead of a work permit. If five years have passed, the person may apply for “Individual Rehabilitation.” However, individuals from visa-exempt countries (e.g., the US) who have a single misdemeanor offense for which they were not sentenced to imprisonment, may be issued a TRP at the Canadian port of entry at the discretion of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). For more details about entering Canada with a criminal record visit: www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-permits.
- A final consideration is the fact that there is a regulatory 15% withholding on fees to foreign artists in Canada. To avoid this withholding, artists can apply for an R-105 waiver at least 45 days before the performance date.
We welcome foreign artists in Canada and hope their border crossings are made easier by dealing with these considerations.
I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: email@example.com.
Q: I have often travelled with my community band into the US to play concerts and thought this was a good thing. Imagine my surprise when the band was stopped at the border last month and denied entry into the US because we did not have a P-1 visa. We’ve never been asked for one before—is this something new?
Border woes such as the one described above are all too common and could easily be avoided. The short answer is that, of course, this is nothing new: the temporary work visa requirement for foreign artists entering the US to perform, whether for pay or free, has long been on the books. The enforcement of the regulation was stepped up several years ago, and a temporary work visa is almost always required. However, entry into the US is still solely at the determination of the US Customs and Border Protection Officer at each border crossing, and it is not entirely surprising that this band was allowed in several times over the years and then suddenly challenged with the visa requirement. It all depends on who you get at the border.
So, how does one avoid border woes? Simply put: do your homework well in advance.
1) Get the right temporary work visa. For performing groups I highly recommend the P-2 visa available through the AFM. The musicians’ union has capable, experienced staff members who will assist with the process, and the reciprocal exchange program under which the P-2 visa is administered, provides a streamlined procedure for Federation members.
2) Make sure that all documents are in order: Passports should extend beyond performance dates (some passports may be required to be valid for six months beyond that date).
3) Make sure that all group members qualify for entry. Seventy-five percent of your band members must have been with the group for at least one year.
4) Deal with any issues of criminality for anyone in the group. Any conviction, however minor, can cause problems at the border. There are ways of dealing with this issue well in advance (Look into Waivers of Ineligibility and Criminal Rehabilitation documentation).
5) Deal with the problem of getting merchandise across the border in advance. Send merchandise in via courier or mail, if you can. If you are carrying merchandise make sure it is properly manufactured, or properly labelled (for example, promotional copies). Have the invoice of manufacture with you. For a large quantity of merchandise, you may want to use a customs broker.
6) Look into customs regulations about carrying instruments containing endangered species across the border. There’s no point in trying to cross a border to perform when there’s a danger that your instrument might be confiscated because it contains something from an endangered species. Check out the Musical Instrument Passport program http://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html.
7) Deal with the problem of transporting instruments, especially if you are flying: Make sure you know the regulations adopted by different airlines for transporting instruments.
8) Work out a strategy for dealing with the border crossing. Rehearse straightforward answers to the typical questions you might be asked by a US Customs and Border Protection official. Coach everyone to be honest and forthright. Answer questions succinctly and do not volunteer additional information.
With a little more knowledge about the regulations for performing in another country and a lot more common sense, border crossing woes can be avoided.
—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Robert Baird, President Baird Artists Management (BAM!)
Travelling across the US/Canada border requires declaring to a customs officer what you are bringing with you. Personal items are exempt from duties and taxes. Bringing in goods or merchandise makes you an “importer” and you will definitely have to declare any items you intend to sell. Here is a recent letter:
Dear Crossing Borders,
My husband, an AFM member, will be traveling to the United States, once by air and then by car at a later date. He would like to take merchandise with him. He believes by air it’s a problem, especially departing from Winnipeg. Is that true? Then he’ll be travelling by car into Washington State from British Columbia. Would that be a problem? We are thinking about sending the merchandise by mail or getting our distributor to send merchandise to the locations instead.
We do have options, but we do have merchandise here that he could take. Which is the best way?
Goods to Sell
By far, the easiest way to sell merchandise in a foreign country is to have the merchandise manufactured and paid for in that country. In this way, you will avoid taxes or duties on importing goods, but obviously, this may not be practical for a number of reasons.
Merchandise crossing the Canada/US Border generally falls into two categories: goods valued at less than $2,500 and goods valued at more than $2,500. The former is known in the US as an “informal entry of merchandise” and the latter a “formal entry of merchandise.” Both Canada and the US categorize imported goods in this way.
There are basically two ways of dealing with getting merchandise across borders: carry it with you or send it ahead of time.
Carrying Merchandise Across a Border
If your goods are valued at less than $2,500, you can have them processed at your port of entry; if they are worth more than $2,500 you will need to use the services of a customs broker to get the goods cleared into the country. At any rate, you will need to have the following: a description of the merchandise, quantity of goods, manufacturing cost, manufacturer, selling price, and country of origin. You should also bring invoices/receipts from the manufacture of your merchandise. Leave merchandise boxes open for customs inspection.
Providing NAFTA Certificate of Origin (B232) and Canada Customs Invoice (CI1) forms (available from http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/forms-formulaires) will help smooth the importation process of getting merchandise across borders. There are sometimes minor fees (merchandise processing fees, truck fees) imposed at the port of entry for importation of goods valued under $2,500.
Sending Merchandise Across a Border
Rather than carrying goods across the border, you might opt for shipping them. Depending upon the circumstances (quantity of goods to be shipped, weight of goods to be shipped, deadlines to be met, etc.) you would most likely choose between the postal service in your country or a parcel/courier service.
If you utilize the post office, you will be required to attach a customs declaration to your package. This declaration will describe the goods being shipped and their value (the manufacturing value, not the selling price). Again, depending on the particular goods being shipped there may be duty or taxes due when the package arrives.
If you utilize a parcel or courier service, they will assist you in attaching the correct form(s) and will often act as a customs broker to ensure the passage of your merchandise across the border, and then bill any brokerage, taxes, and/or duty charges back to your account.
Getting Promotional/Giveaway Merchandise Across a Border
Often, artists crossing a border will have merchandise they intend to give away as a promotional item. If this is the case, then this merchandise should be listed on a separate commercial invoice and valued at the cost of manufacture. In addition, such items should each be clearly marked “Promotional item—not intended for resale.”
As ever, honesty is the best policy and it would be foolhardy to try to get your merchandise across a border without declaring it. At the very least, your goods could be held up at the border, or even worse, refused entry.
If you need information on getting merchandise across the border at specific ports of entry you can find contact information for US Ports of Entry here: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/ports/ and Canada Border Services Agency locations here: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/do-rb/menu-eng.html.
—Please send your questions and concerns to me at: email@example.com. While I cannot answer every question here, I will feature as many as I can, and I promise to answer every e-mail I receive.