Performing in the US has always been regarded as an important step in any artist’s career and the opportunity to play there should be grasped with both hands
However, with very few exceptions work visas have always been required and these are both complicated and expensive to obtain.
This has led to a search for loopholes in US legislation that may permit certain musical activities without work visas and for some to risk entering the US to perform without the correct visa.
The relentless advance of communications technology has increased the chances of getting caught if trying to enter the US to work without the correct visa. The CBP (border officials) will Google anyone they suspect and send home anyone attempting to work illegally.
It is always safest to seek advice before deciding whether a work visa is needed (we are happy to speak to any potential applicant and give a free of charge appraisal of their situation).
Obtaining a US work visa is a two-stage process and takes a minimum of around 4 weeks to get a visa stamp in your passport and be heading off to the airport.
It’s best though to start the process as soon as you can, as there are sometimes unforeseen delays along the way and the US official line is that travel shouldn’t be booked until you have your visa.
That said, in an emergency applications can sometimes be pushed through more quickly.
The first stage is to get an I129 petition approved by the USCIS (US government department). This is the equivalent of a work permit.
The second is to attend an interview at a US Embassy where applicants are questioned and their application documents reviewed and all being well the visa is issued.
There are two main categories of US visa that are appropriate for musicians; P1 for musical groups and O1 for individuals. Both have sub categories for ‘essential support staff’ that is backing musicians and crew.
In order to qualify there are certain requirements:
A US organisation to act as petitioner. This can be a record company, promoter, booking agent etc. There needs to be a contractual relationship between them and the applicant
- Some work booked in the US - a proposed itinerary should be provided.
- Evidence of meeting the criteria of bring ‘internationally known’ for P1 groups and ‘internationally renowned’ and ‘outstanding’ for O1s. Typically this would consist of press, discogarphy, awards , endorsement letters etc.
- Applicants with criminal histories and previous US immigration difficulties should flag these up as soon as possible as they can make applicants ineligible to receive a visa but many of these ineligibilities can be overcome although this may lengthen processing time.
These can vary from application to application and at Viva La Visa we are happy to give you a quote based on your individual needs. As a rough guide total costs for petition and visas for a group range from around £3,000.00 - £12,000.00 depending on numbers of applicants.