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Border Crossing Made Easier

by Robert Baird, President, BAM! Baird Artists Management Consulting

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

Crossing borders has never been easy: it can be nerve-wracking and tedious. However, with some knowledge and preparation, it can be simpler, quicker, and less stressful. Whether you are crossing from the US into Canada or from Canada into the US, if you do your homework well in advance, you should have few problems getting across that border.

Performers travelling from Canada to the US will need to have a temporary work visa (O or P visa). I highly recommend the P-2 visa available through the AFM. The musicians’ union has capable, experienced staff members who assist with the process. Also, the reciprocal exchange program under which P-2 visas are administered provides a streamlined procedure for AFM members.

Note that, even if you are not being paid to perform in the US, you still require this “work” visa because, for any and all performances, musicians are considered to be working in the US. Make sure that all group members qualify for entry: 75% of your band members must have been with the group for at least one year.

Performers travelling from the US to Canada do not require a work permit if they: are performing in Canada for a limited time, are not being hired for ongoing employment, and are not involved in making a movie, television, or radio broadcast. If your work does not fit this description, you need a work permit for Canada.

Examine issues of criminality for each member of the group. Any conviction, however minor, can cause problems. There are ways to deal with this issue well in advance. Look up “Ineligibilities and Waivers” on the US State Department website (travel.state.gov).

Investigate how to get your merchandise across the border. Send merchandise in advance via courier or mail, if you can. If you are carrying in promotional items, make sure they are properly labelled with country of manufacture and properly stickered (For example, “Promotional item: not for resale”). Have the invoice of manufacture with you, a customs invoice, and a NAFTA certificate. For smaller quantities of merchandise (less than $2,000 or CAN$2,500) you can use Informal Entry. For larger values of merchandise, use a customs broker.

If you are crossing a border with a large inventory of instruments and equipment, you should utilize a carnet (a passport for goods). You can acquire a carnet at https://www.atacarnet.com/what-carnet (US) or http://www.chamber.ca/carnet/how-to-apply-for-a-carnet/ (Canada). If you only have a small number of instruments and gear, get a CBP Form 4457 stamped at US Customs before you leave the US or a BSF407 (available at Canadian Customs), before you leave Canada. These forms are a record of what you are taking out of the country and will help to avoid problems re-entering.

Look into possible problems crossing the border with instruments containing endangered species. Avoid the risk of having your instrument confiscated because it contains these components. Check out the Musical Instrument Passport program http://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html.

You should also consider the logistics of transporting instruments, especially if you are flying. Make sure you know your airline’s baggage restrictions (https://www.fim-musicians.org/airlines-list) regarding the transport of instruments.

Make sure that all of your documents are in order. Passports should extend beyond performance dates (passports from some countries have to be valid for six months beyond the travel period to the foreign country). When approaching border officials, have passports open to the photo page. For entry into the US, also bring a copy of your original P-2 Visa Approval Document (I-797 Form).

Think about strategies for dealing with border officials. Rehearse straightforward answers to typical questions you might be asked. Coach everyone to be honest and forthright. Answer questions succinctly and do not volunteer unnecessary information. Be respectful and avoid complaints, commentary, and jokes.

Remember that crossing a border is a privilege and is at the discretion of the border officers. Greeting the officer with documents that are complete and in order and honestly disclosing the purpose of your visit will make the official’s job a little easier and will help ensure a streamlined border crossing.

With knowledge about the regulations for performing in another country, advance preparation, and common sense, border crossing can indeed be easier.

Robert Baird welcomes your questions. You may contact him by email: robert@bairdartists.com.

A Guide to Easy Border Crossing

Touring requires preparation and organization. One element of touring that demands much of both is border crossing. Crossing a border to work in a foreign country can be nerve-wracking and difficult, if you are not prepared. With thorough preparation you can ensure easy border crossings while on tour.

The first consideration should be work permits. Every foreign artist who performs in the US is required to have a temporary work visa. I highly recommend the P-2 Visa, which can be processed through the Canadian Federation of Musicians (http://www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-
permits). When making your initial entry into the US, you will need to carry the USCIS approval notice (or a copy). If band members are entering the country separately, everyone should have their own copy.

Make sure that all of your travel documents are in order. All passports must be valid at least six months beyond the last performance date. If you do not hold a Canadian or US passport, you will also be required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) (www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp), to fly into Canada. Other countries require all foreign passports to be valid for a certain number of months from the date of entry or planned exit. Look into the requirements for each country you intend to visit.

If crossing by land, you may need to show vehicle ownership; if travelling by air, you will need to show a return ticket. You may be asked to show proof of accommodation and/or proof that you can support yourself while in a foreign country. If you are a parent travelling with a child, you will need written travel permission from any other guardian or parent.

Also, before traveling, look into any possible issues of criminality. Any prior conviction, however minor, can cause problems at the border and should be dealt with well in advance with either a waiver of ineligibility or a criminal rehabilitation application.

You must also plan for transporting equipment and merchandise. Understand the border restrictions in relation to prohibited goods or substances. If you are travelling with instruments and other gear, consider applying for an ATA Carnet, a document that can minimize hassles and fees at the border (www.chamber.ca/carnet). In the absence of an ATA Carnet, have a complete inventory with you. Whenever possible, include descriptions, serial numbers, purchase dates, and values. Having your gear organized in numbered cases will make it much easier when border officials need to check the gear.

Be aware of restrictions on crossing a border with instruments containing endangered species. There’s no point in risking confiscation of your gear. Check out the Musical Instrument Passport program (www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html).

If you are flying, make sure you know the airline’s rules and regulations for transporting instruments. Invest in high-quality cases to protect them from damage.

If you are carrying merchandise, be sure to declare it and make sure it is properly labelled or properly stickered (for promotional copies). Have the invoice of manufacture with you. Keep in mind the option of sending merchandise via courier or mail, or having it manufactured in the country to which you are touring. For large quantities of merchandise, use a customs broker.

Finally, consider your strategy for interacting with border crossing officials. Appearances are important. You need to look and sound like you are a law-abiding citizen, respectful of authority, who poses absolutely no risk. Turn off the radio or iPad, remove ear buds and sunglasses. If crossing by land, your vehicle should reflect this as well—neat and clean. Rehearse straightforward answers to typical questions you might be asked by officials. Coach everyone in your group to be honest and forthright, and to answer questions succinctly without volunteering additional information. 

With sufficient knowledge and preparation, border crossing can be simple.

Robert Baird is President of Baird Artists Management Consulting and an expert in international touring. Involved in the performing arts for more than 50 years, he was president of NAPAMA, and Treasurer of FEO. He is currently president of OAPN and APAP Showcase Coordinator. Contact him at robert@bairdartists.com.

Canadian Entry

Stress-Free Canadian Entry

My band, based in Houston, Texas, is booked to perform at a number of Canadian venues in early October. It’s our first time and we have been told that there are certain requirements for getting into the country, and we’re not sure what to expect. Can you help?

Some of us remember the “good old days” when all you needed to cross the border into Canada was a driver’s license and a birth certificate. Since 2009 this is no longer possible. Now, if you are traveling by air you need a US passport (or a NEXUS card) to enter Canada and you will need the same to get back into the US. If you are driving or coming by boat, you will need a US passport, passport card, or an enhanced driver’s license (available in Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington).

If you are a lawful permanent resident of the US, your Green Card will allow you to cross the border both ways, regardless of your mode of transportation. Canada requires a visa for holders of passports from certain countries. Check the Canada Government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp, if you are unsure about your band members. Getting a visa online can take well over a month. Start the process early. Check to see if any members of your group require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) as well: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp.

Savvy border crossers traveling by car know that it is faster to cross at certain border crossings. Times can also vary depending upon the traffic flow and volume, time of day, and time of year. Check wait times in advance at: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/bwt-taf/menu-eng.html.

In order to avoid any complications while crossing borders with musical instruments, there are two options available: the ATA Carnet (http://www.atacarnet.com) or an inventory list. The list should include item descriptions; serial numbers; costs, dates, and places of purchase; and current resale values. Be sure to take this list into the border office of your home country and have it stamped by a border official. The border official will examine the instruments to verify the list, so it is best if the instruments are clearly marked with owner/group name (if applicable) and perhaps numbered to correspond with the list. You should also declare any CDs or
merch you are bringing into the country.

Having the required documents does not guarantee admission into Canada. All visitors to Canada have to also undergo an interview with a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer upon arrival to determine admissibility into the country. Be sure to have your passport or other documentation, including vehicle ownership and performance contracts, ready for inspection. Remove any sunglasses, and look the agent in the eye when answering. This is not the time for jokes or unseemly behavior. You want to impress upon the border officer that you are law-abiding and respectful of authority.

For most foreign artists, entry into Canada is relatively easy. A work permit is not required in most cases. Crossing the border can be as simple as answering a few questions about the purpose of your trip, where you are going, and what you will be doing there. To avoid delay, be prepared with simple straightforward answers to the questions the officer might ask, and voilà—welcome to Canada.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com. 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.

Border Crossing Tips

Last-Minute Border Crossing Tips

You’ve done all the heavy lifting and your paperwork seems to be in order. You’re ready to get on the road and get across that border to fulfil contracted dates. Before you head out the door, here are some last-minute border crossing tips to ensure a successful crossing:

Organize your paperwork. Have your approved I-797 or visa document with you (perhaps in a binder) and be sure that everyone crossing has a valid passport. If crossing by land, you may need to show vehicle ownership; if travelling by air, you need to have evidence of a return ticket. You may be asked to show proof of accommodation and/or proof that you can support yourself while in a foreign country. If you are travelling with gear, have a complete inventory with you. If you are a lone parent/guardian travelling with a child, you may need written travel permission from another guardian or parent.

Appearances are important. At the border, you need to look and sound like a law-abiding citizen who is respectful of authority and poses absolutely no risk. Your demeanor and attitude need to send the right message to border crossing officials. Turn off the radio and remove the sunglasses. If crossing by land, your vehicle should be orderly, neat, and clean.

Declare what you are bringing with you. If you are bringing in CDs for sale or promotion, let the border officials know. You may have to fill out some paperwork, but it’s better to be up front then to have merchandise discovered in a routine inspection and have to deal with the repercussions of not having declared them.

Be prepared for search or inspection. Border officials routinely inspect personal belongings and search vehicles. Your suitcase or purse might be emptied, if border officials need to confirm what they have seen on the x-ray machine, or they might just be searching at random. An inspection might be as simple as a drug-sniffing dog being led on a leash around your vehicle to see if anything turns up, or a complete emptying of the contents of your vehicle. Whatever happens, grin and bear it.

Answer all questions pleasantly. Whatever you are asked, answer with a smile. Border officials can throw you a curve and may try to get a rise out of you, depending on the kind of day they are having. Just remember that their job is a difficult one and they certainly do not need, nor do they deserve, any attitude on the part of someone trying to cross a border and get into their country. Even if you are subjected to aggression or intimidation from a border crossing official, remain calm and polite. Whatever you do, don’t lie.

Do not volunteer extraneous information. As interesting as our life may be, border crossing officials really do not have time to listen to anything other than straight answers to the questions they ask. Answer briefly and directly; the fewer words the better. Use language carefully to avoid any suggestion of impropriety. Do not make jokes or any kind of extraneous comment.

Relax. It may take a while to cross a border and the waiting can be nerve-wracking. At the border, you may be searched, detained and interrogated. Whatever happens, be cooperative and reserved.

See you on the other side.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com.

US Visa

Planning for a Successful US Visa

Getting a work permit (O or P visa) for the US as a foreign artist (or nonresident alien) requires a lot of advance planning and thoughtful consideration of the time required for the many steps involved, including the possibility of unavoidable delays.

It’s an unfortunate circumstance that artists are often unable to enter the US to perform because they simply run out of time for the visa process. Here are some suggestions:

First, an artist should start the process as soon as possible. Even beginning a year in advance of a proposed performance date or start date in the US is not too soon. Even if contracts have not yet been signed, you can apply for a nonimmigrant work permit (O or P visa) with deal memos, emails, or letters of intent, as long as they confirm that there are performance date(s). Of course, a foreign artist cannot apply for a non-immigrant work permit but needs to appoint a petitioner (a US-based individual or entity). Gathering this evidence and appointing a petitioner takes time.

Next, the required petition materials must be gathered and prepared to form part of the petition. These materials include passport photo pages from everyone who will be performing (passports need to be valid for six months beyond the proposed US dates), personal information, reviews, programs, biographies, letters of recommendation, lists of awards, a tour itinerary, etc. Although for the P-2 permit specifically, which for musical artists can only be obtained through the AFM, evidence of reviews, biographies, and other accomplishments are not required. It may take some time to gather this information, so start early.

Once completed, a formal petition is submitted to the USCIS office in either Vermont or California for regular or premium processing. Regular processing is less expensive than premium, but currently can take up to four months for an approval; in the case of a P-2 visa, these petitions have been taking 100 calendar days from the date of submission to the AFM. Premium Processing costs more, but USCIS guarantees a response in 15 days. However, even with premium processing, you must apply for the petition at least 25 days before entry to the US to ensure your Approval Notice will arrive in time. There is no guarantee of approval with either processing. At times, USCIS will require further evidence and this can cause unexpected delay in the process. All submitted petitions are issued a receipt number from USCIS, identifying the application.

Eventually, an approved petition will result in receipt of an I-797 form. USCIS will also send a copy of the petition to the Kentucky Consular Center for download to the Petitioner Information Management Service (PIMS). This can take a few days.

Canadian citizens, including Canadian members of the AFM, who are able to apply for P-2 visas, do not need to go to a consular interview, but can go directly to the Canada-US border with an approved I-797.

For non-Canadian citizens, once you have an approved I-797 in hand, you can schedule an appointment at your closest US Consulate. (Wait times for an interview vary from two to 40 days or more.) Go online to complete the required DS-160 Visa Application form, pay the required visa fee, and then arrive at the consulate for an interview with your DS-160 barcode page, proof of payment, and required photos. Once you have been approved for the visa, the consulate, will retain your passport, process the visa document (times vary from consulate to consulate), and make arrangements for these documents to get back to you.

Only after completing these steps are you able to go to the US with documents in hand and speak with a border official, at whose sole discretion you will be allowed into the country.

Take the time to determine the best timetable for getting through the process and ensuring that you will be able to be in the US for your performances.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com.

Contract Basics

Contract Basics for Touring Artists

by Robert Baird, President Baird Artists Management (BAM!)

robert-bairdKnowledge of contracts is a must for every touring artist. A contract ensures that both parties communicate their understanding of the details of an engagement. And it binds both parties to honor its provisions.

I highly recommend that a touring musician utilize the AFM Contract for Travelling Engagements (Form T-2C for US bookings & LPCC for Canadian bookings). Once completed and filed, the contract has the force of law and the AFM/CFM behind it. If for some reason the purchaser fails to meet the agreed contract terms, the AFM/CFM will make every effort possible to pursue collection of the monies owed to its members, including taking the purchaser to court when there is merit to do so.

If a venue prefers to use its own contract, try to get them to initial and attach the Schedule 1 (page 2) of the T-2C or LPCC as an addendum, forming part of the contractual arrangements. When you are unable to use the AFM/CFM contract, take the following precautions:

1) Read the contract. Don’t sign anything you have not read.

2) Make sure you understand what the contract is saying and how it will affect you before you sign it.

3) A contract should be in understandable English or French. If there is anything you don’t understand consult with your local union or the national office to ensure you are protected as much as the engager.

4) You can change anything in a contract, however, the changes will not be binding until the other party agrees to them in writing.

No matter what kind of contract is used, be sure to clarify:

1) Services and duties—where, when, length, and type of show. Are there specific expectations of the purchaser?

2) Payment—the currency and form (cash, certified check, money order, etc.) that you will be paid in. The contract should address late payment or failure to pay, as well as interest charged on late payments.

3) Cancellation terms—under what conditions the contract can be cancelled and what are the applicable penalties for cancelling.

4) Liability—what insurance are you required to carry to protect yourself from injury or claims from audience, venue, staff, or crew. (It’s a good idea to have a policy in place. The CFM offers a good policy for its Canadian members, see here for more information: http://www.cfmusicians.org/services/we-ve-got-it-covered. For more information on obtaining insurance in the US visit afm.org.

5) Riders—specify your performance/hospitality and technical requirements:

Main rider: addresses such things as contact info; billing, advertising and promotion; merchandise; accommodations; dressing room; and security requirements.

Hospitality rider: addresses such things as meals; dressing room food and drink; after-show food; and bus food/stock.

Technical rider: addresses such things as sound, lighting and backline requirements; risers/staging; local crew required; stage plot and input list; and lighting plot.

Note: Riders can be changed, but any changes need to be agreed to in writing by both parties. Be sure to have the agreed-upon riders initialed by both parties.

6) Exclusivity—any geographical or time restrictions that might prevent booking other performances close by or around the same time of year.

Once you have a signed contract, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that all of the details have been addressed. If anything changes after signing, be sure to communicate with the other party immediately and seek to resolve unexpected issues. Life on the road is complicated. Detailed contracts are one way to make life easier.

—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to: robert@bairdartists.com.

Playing It Safe: The Importance of Documents

Q: My performing group had a gig in the United States and we thought we were prepared. We knew our work permit was in order; none of us had criminal records; we weren’t carrying any merchandise; we arrived at the border early; we all had passports; and our car insurance was current. But we still had trouble getting across the border. Apparently our visa approval had gotten lost in the system and the border officials could find no record of it. We had no paperwork with us and had to wait at the border until a colleague brought a copy of our I-797. We’ll always carry our paperwork from now on.

It’s always a good idea to carry your paperwork with you, especially when it comes to border crossings. You need an approved work visa to perform in the US. Although the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) uses Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) to inform a port of entry or pre-flight inspection facility of all approved visas, there can be errors and omissions. It’s always up to the border official to allow entry. Having your paperwork with you is imperative.

If you are applying for a visa at a consulate and your approved visa is not in the PIMS system, there will be a delay until it is. Having your approved I-797 with you can expedite the process. You might also consider having your complete visa application package with you, since it contains a complete itinerary and copies of contracts, as well as passport copies and beneficiary information.

Although the temporary work permit is perhaps the most important piece of paper to carry with you, there are other essential documents that will help facilitate border crossings. Obviously, your passport (or equivalent identification) is a must.

If you are bringing instruments or equipment with you, you should have an original purchase receipt for each item crossing the border, or at the very least, an inventory listing with particulars such as a description, serial numbers, purchase date, etc. Border officials need to know where and when you acquired an item or they may consider that you acquired it when travelling. It would then be subject to border crossing purchase restrictions and possibly duty and taxes.

If you are travelling with an instrument that contains any of the protected species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), such as ivory, sea turtle shell, Brazilian rosewood, monitor lizard, or whale bone, you will need a CITES permit to get the instrument across the border. Without such a permit, you may have your instrument confiscated.

If you are travelling by air, have a copy of your particular airline’s musical instrument policy: www.airlines.org/blog/instrument-rated-air-travel-for-musicians/. Also bring a copy of the Federal Department of Transportation musical instrument rule: www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/Musical%20instruments_FR_final%20rule.pdf.

Other important documents to have with you are proof of vehicle ownership, proof of accommodation, receipt for a return ticket (if travelling by air), conference registration or letter of invitation, and written permission from the guardians or parents, if travelling with a child under 18.

Border officials need to be assured you are entering the country temporarily, that you will be returning to your own country, and that you are not engaged in any activities which might violate the law.

Play it safe by carrying essential documents with you that will ease your border crossings.

—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to: robert@bairdartists.com.

Avoiding Border Woes

Avoiding Border Woes

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: robert@bairdartists.com.

Central Withholding Agreements in the US

If you are a nonresident alien (non US citizen) entertainer performing in the US, you are subject to 30% tax withholding from gross income. There are situations in which the withholding requirement does not apply (certain corporations, nonprofit organizations, and certain treaty provisions), but generally most artists should take advantage of central withholding agreements (CWA) with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to reduce this withholding amount.

A CWA is an agreement entered into by the entertainer, a designated withholding agent, and an authorized representative of the IRS. The agreement can cover one event or a tour and the withholding percentage required will be based on an income/expense budget provided by the artist, indicating net profit/loss. In order to access a CWA, your previous US income tax returns must be filed and US taxes paid (or you have arrangements to pay). You also must file a US tax return for the year in which the CWA is granted.

A designated withholding agent must be a completely independent third party (often, it is a venue, agent, manager, accountant, attorney, etc.). The agent is required to withhold and forward to the IRS withholding tax according to the terms of the CWA and provide a final accounting of the artist’s income and expenses.

The advantages of a CWA is that it allows for one withholding agent (rather than several, as on a tour) and the withholding percentage is based on the estimated ultimate tax liability, rather than the blanket 30% withholding required by law. Only individuals may apply for a CWA and for groups of artists in a band or other ensemble, each artist must apply separately.

Filing a CWA application should include:

  • Application form 13930
  • Itinerary of events to be covered by the CWA
  • Income/expense budget with contracts, deal memos, projected merchandise sales, etc.
  • Power of Attorney or Appointment of Representative form

The regulations for applying are extremely strict in regard to the application date. If the application is received less than 45 days prior to the first event on the CWA application, it will be rejected. The optimum time to apply for a CWA is 90 days before the first event. If you cannot meet these deadlines and the 30% is withheld, you can always apply for a refund (if one is applicable) by filing a US tax return for the year in which you had monies withheld.

When a CWA has been fully executed and signed by the entertainer, the designated withholding agent, and the representative of the IRS, the designated withholding agent assumes responsibility for withholding and reporting tax on the entire tour or event, relieving all other withholding agents from withholding, and eliminating the chances of over-withholding.

Sometimes a foreign entertainer will try to rely on the submission of W-9 or W-8BEN forms or assume that they can rely on a tax treaty provision that allows a certain level of tax-free income. Strictly speaking, the W-9 or W-8BEN form does not negate the withholding because the income is treated as flowing directly to the artist (unless an arm’s-length corporation is involved). Any treaty provisions cannot be considered since the amount of income earned will not be determined until the year’s end. There are, however, certain countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) with a treaty-based provision that exempts all US earned income from taxation.

A CWA is a something every foreign artist coming to perform in the US should consider.

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