The United States’ underfunded, understaffed immigration program is looking to make up operating deficits by charging more for already-expensive visas. For artists, that could mean up to a 200% higher fee. But if that sounds bad, don’t just get frustrated – take action.
Those operating shortfalls are the main issue here, according to the US Department of Homeland Security’s own statement. DHS had already attempted a rate change for court fees in 2020 under the Trump Administration, though that rule was widely condemned by advocacy groups and ultimately struck down by federal courts. The visa fee increases don’t just apply to touring artists, but all temporary work visas, including the H-1B for specialized workers. That means this is relevant not just to CDM artists but also music instrument and technology employers in the USA, who have already been hit with increased tariffs on semiconductor imports.
For artists, the relevant visas are P visa (artists/entertainers) and O visa (extraordinary abilities in the arts). The proposal would change the P visa from $460 to $1615 and the O visa from $460 to $1655. These include a $600 surcharge for the asylum program.
The issues with this are fairly obvious. For many arts events, the additional costs will simply mean artists choose not to tour. That’s especially worrying to the USA’s neighbors, including the largest land border with Canada in the north (see below). There’s a likely large-scale impact on international exchange in the arts, at a time when the world is already fracturing.
And there’s a potential ripple effect. Visa policies tend to be reciprocal, which means that the USA hiking its rates could have a corresponding impact for US artists elsewhere, and across the international system.
Nyshka Chandran at Resident Advisor has a detailed story on this, and RA’s platform has helped raise visibility for the issue in the DJ and electronic music communities:
US proposes massive visa fee increase for foreign artists [Resident Advisor]
This hits Indian immigration hard, among others, so it’s not surprising to see an article from Mumbai:
Biden administration proposes higher US visa fees, steep hikes for H-1B and EB-5 applications [The Times of India]
And Canadian musicians are concerned:
Proposed U.S. visa fee increase could make tours unaffordable for Canadian musicians [The Record / The Canadian Press]
It’s important not to miss the call to action here, though. US rule changes are subject to a public comment period – it’s one of the advantages of democratic government, at least in theory.
There was already an online public session, but the easiest way to voice your concerns is to fill out a form on regulations.gov, via the Federal Register page.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements [Federal Register / regulations.gov]
Rule change official commentary due by March 6, 2023
The usual rules for public comment apply. Be concise, clear, and respectful. And most importantly, tell your friends – these comments are registered, and quantities count.
I know there are readers of CDM who know a lot more about immigration law than I do, so feel free to get in touch, as there’s a wider array of issues in North America, Europe, and elsewhere that are urgent to address now. The post-pandemic era on top of major migrations due to war and famine are only raising the pressure.
There’s already a Canadian petition (to the CFM, Canadian Federation of Musicians, and TMA, Toronto Musicians’ Association):
Increasing US visa artist fees by 260% [change.org]
Let us know if there are similar actions for other international audiences.
This is one of many immigration issues in the spotlight. Here in Berlin, we’re concerned about new deportation efforts – see online music and radio platform Refuge Worldwide:
BER’s New Deportation Centre: what does it mean and how can we stop it?
Image at top:
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection” is marked with CC0 1.0.