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Transatlantic assocs campaign for US visa overhaul

In the wake of the visa confusion surrounding this year’s South by Southwest, US-based nonprofit Tamizdat has organised the Artist Mobility Advocacy Coalition (AMAC), a coalition of industry associations, unions and festivals on both sides of the Atlantic committed to “improving the US artist visa process”.

More than ten SXSW performers were denied entry to the US in March after attempting to enter the country on tourist visas. The artists argued that since their showcases were unpaid and for promotional purposes only, they did not require P-2 artist visas; US immigration authorities disagreed.

Many artists likely decided to try their chances on tourist (‘B’) visas following the increase in artist visa fees by 42% last December. However, writing in IQ shortly after, Tamizdat’s Matthew Covey, an immigration lawyer, said the increase in fees is “not the problem with the US artist visa process. The problem is that the process is so slow that almost everyone has to pay the government’s $1225 ‘premium processing’ expediting fee, and it is so complex and unreliable that almost everyone has to hire a lawyer to get through it (costing anywhere from $800 to $8,000).”

These expenses, he said, are increasingly forcing many foreign artists to “give up touring in the US, because it’s impossible to break even”.

The launch of AMAC follows a Tamizdat white paper on artist mobility to the US, in which the organisation outlines its recommendations for fixing a system that “impedes the activities of US businesses and cultural organisations that rely on foreign performers, unnecessarily strains chronically understaffed and overworked employees at USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] and DOS [US Department of State] and significantly impacts the American people’s access to international culture”.

The current system, says Tamizdat, “impedes the activities of US businesses and cultural organisations that rely on foreign performers”

In addition to Tamizdat, organisations supporting AMAC include the UK Entertainment Agents’ Association, the UK and Norwegian Musicians’ Unions, Music Live Canada, Reeperbahn Festival, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Womex, PRS for Music Foundation, Sounds Australia, Brasil Music Exchange and Pearle* (Performing Arts Employers Associations League Europe).

Representatives of AMAC met earlier this month with the European Commission (EC) in Brussels, where they are hoping to gain EU support for the white paper.

In a statement, Pearle* says it “hopes that the EC will acknowledge this particular issue for the artist community and will address the specific questions with the US at transatlantic meetings.”

The association, which represents more than 7,000 live music and performing arts organisations across Europe, calls for EU member states to make artist mobility a “key priority” and to pressure the European Council to add the topic to its agenda.

A similar controversy over visa costs recently flared up in Australia, where industry body LPA criticised plans to increase ‘processing fees’ for foreign artists by “up to 600%”.


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