British music organizations are unilaterally protesting increases in US visa fees that would make touring for international artists no longer feasible.
After the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quietly proposed hiking performer visa fees, UK entertainment industry bodies are taking action. Numerous entertainment bodies, including the Association of British Orchestras, the Musicians’ Union, and the Independent Society of Musicians, have written to Kemi Badenoch, the UK Secretary of State for business and trade, urging her to appeal to the US to reconsider the increased fees.
Under the DHS proposal, the P visa, most commonly used by touring international music artists, would increase from $460 to $1,615 — a price hike of 251%. Meanwhile, the O visa, a longer-term work visa for established performers, would increase by 260%, from $460 to $1,655. Additionally, both would also require a new $600 surcharge.
To make matters worse, the DHS has proposed increasing the time for premium processing — which already costs $2,500 per petition — from 15 calendar days to 15 working days without decreasing costs. The changes would also cap the number of individuals permitted on a single visa petition at 25, meaning multiple petitions would be required for larger ensembles such as orchestras.
“America is one of the most important global markets for British musicians, and breaking into the States can be critical to a musician or band’s career — but this increase in visa fees risks making a US tour unaffordable for emerging acts,” says Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO of UK Music.
The letter states that 70% of music industry professionals surveyed said they would be unable to tour the US due to the visa changes and that the costs would potentially wipe out over a third of any profits a tour might hope to make.
“The impact of these changes is huge,” reads the letter. “With the ongoing cost of living crisis and the live sector still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, such increases would make it unaffordable for many British acts to work and perform in the world’s biggest music market.”
The letter also posits that the negative consequences of the changes would affect the US too; with fee increases stifling international cultural activity, US-based jobs would be at risk, leading to a “negative economic ripple effect” on communities that rely on arts events.