Some foreign musicians attempting to enter the US to perform at South by Southwest (SXSW) have been turned away, and in certain cases even arrested and detained overnight after attempting to use the wrong type of entry visa. Performers arriving to tour in the US typically enter using a P-1 or P-2 “performance” visas. However, the musicians turned away thought they were legally allowed to perform in unpaid “showcase” events using a B-1 tourist visas.
Visa information on the SXSW website states: “Foreign artists entering the US to perform both at SXSW and at any other public performance, whether for compensation or not, must obtain work visas. In general, these work visas will be either an O or P visa, depending on the specific situation. Citizens of 38 countries may be eligible to register under ESTA and enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), or apply for a B visa instead … We encourage you to be very careful when using the VWP Program to perform at SXSW, the guidelines to do so are very strict.”