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Stricter immigration and rising visa fees ‘could harm touring’

Visa experts are navigating an increasingly complex touring landscape, amid hikes in work permits, the spectre of Brexit and tighter border controls across the world

By IQ on 21 Nov 2017

Kings of Leon

image © ANSPressSocietyNews

Last week’s announcement by the British government it is to enshrine the date of Britain’s exit from the EU – 29 March 2019 – in law has once again thrust into the spotlight the issue of freedom of movement after Brexit, with leading visa experts warning of the impact a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could have on international touring.

“If the current customs regulations are made more time-consuming [post-Brexit] that will impact live tours, putting tight time schedules at risk,” Steve Richard of UK-based T&S Immigration Services tells IQ.

While the unwelcome return of visas for artists and carnets for equipment – both for British passport holders in Europe and EU artists playing the UK – is by no means a certainty, Oleg Gaidar of Artist and Entertainer Visas Global says he has already received enquiries from managers about the possibility of attaining European passports for the UK clients with European parents or grandparents. “That shows us the concern of people who are trying to look ahead and at least secure the principle to play shows in Europe without needing work permits,” he comments.

One potential solution, backed by UK Music and at least one prominent pro-Brexit MP, is a temporary ‘touring passport’ for British artists playing EU countries, although the proposal has yet to find support from the British government, which is currently negotiating with EU authorities over trade and Britain’s supposed exit bill.

The UK’s uncertain future aside, visa experts across the world are already grappling with an increasingly complex international touring market – not least in the US, where the surprise election of Donald Trump and stricter immigration rules caught out a number of acts this year, including at least ten artists heading to South by Southwest 2017.

“The goalposts are always changing, and very often people aren’t on the same page,” says Michelle Rubio of LA-based Creative Mind Access Visas & Passport Services.

“The goalposts are always changing, and very often people aren’t on the same page”

Among the recent changes in the US are tighter scrutiny of first-time visa applications, adds Andy Corrigan of UK-based Viva La Visa, which has looked after visa processing for tours by Ed Sheeran, Kings of Leon (pictured) and Sam Smith, including “more stringent questioning at American embassies and are being asked more searching questions than they previously would have been.”

Also of concern is the recent hike in fees for ‘non-immigrant worker’ visas, with the fee for filing a US visa alone now US$460, rising to $1,225 for the fast-track service.

Although the United States remains one of the trickiest and most expensive countries for touring parties to visit, it is far from the only market to have tightened immigration procedures. In the past two years, Russia and China have both introduced biometric fingerprint testing at select border controls. In 2015, Argentina introduced work visa requirements for British nationals, while UK passport holders flying to Canada now have to fill in an ESTA-type form online prior to travel, and acquire waivers if they have certain criminal convictions.

In line with tougher procedures, visa-processing fees have also increased in many touring hotspots, including Australia, which has removed bulk discounts for large tours that capped visa fees at A$7,200 (US$5,450). Now it costs A$275 per person – or between A$22,000 and $27,500 for a touring production of 80–100 people.

“Where one country eases up, it feels like another starts tightening the buckle a little harder,” says Rubio.

Read more about how global experts are keeping artists and crews on the move in the full feature in IQ 74.


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