Folk Music Ontario is strongly urging all folks to act now to oppose the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's proposed rate increases; that would make touring in the United States for international artists significantly more expensive.
If the proposed fee increases were confirmed, touring and gigging in the U.S. for all international artists, would become cost prohibitive in a way that could become a huge detriment to the careers of emerging and export-ready musicians.
The proposed rate increase would see the filing fees for regularly processed O-type visa petitions increase from $460 to $1,655, an increase of 260%. Processing fees for P-type, including P-2 petitions would rise by 251% from $460 to $1,615.
Fees for ‘premium processing’ of visa requests would remain unchanged at $2,500 under the proposed rule changes.
There are 2 ways in which you may be able to help this cause:
Canadians: please reach out to all US buyers, venues, artists, associations, etc., you may work with, to seek their assistance, and use your platform to help spread the word and the call-to-action.
Americans: please lend your voice to this cause – as it will be US citizens and businesses that the US government will primarily consider comments from. You can do so at this link: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/01/04/2022-27066/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-fee-schedule-and-changes-to-certain-other-immigration#open-comment and please consider the points below:
- Who does this fee increase actually impact? (i.e. facts about your members, your community, - who they are, whether you or your colleagues are visa applicants themselves)
- What is the scale of the visa costs before and after the proposed increase? Provide specific examples of local organizations/cases if you can. Even one is helpful.
- How will this impact your organizations/individuals/community? What % of annual gross revenue will the fee increase represent? Please go beyond "this will be bad for business" or "this will put me out of business" - specify how.
- What is the solution, recognizing that a fee increase of some kind is likely? (for instance, “we are calling for immediate improvements to artist visa processing, we hope that any fee increase is proportional, we are asking that any fee increase be phased in with plenty of time to adapt to new costs”, etc.)
- Specific to US organizations, venues, artists, etc.: USCIS is required to seek Public Comment for a 60 day period. Comments can be filed online through the Federal Register Portal: Federal Register: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements deadline of March 6, 2023.
Through this Portal, please provide SPECIFIC examples of the financial impact these new fees will have on you or your organization in particular, such as, cancelling performances, losing the ability to engage international guest artists, etc. Please note, all comments submitted through the Federal Register portal will be viewable by the public.
In addition to issuing a formal comment in response to the USCIS Proposals, everyone is strongly encouraged to forward a copy of your comments to your U.S. Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as engage your audiences, speak up and out, create performance art advocacy, and whatever else it takes for this situation to be taken seriously.
To find the contact information for your U.S. Senator and Representative, click here.
Some points to consider in forming your comments:
- International artists are engaged throughout the arts and entertainment industry, which is still itself recovering from the effects of COVID-19. Most of these entities do not, in fact, have the ability to pay these proposed fees, nor do the foreign artists engaged.
- Drastic fee increases will stifle international cultural activity, put U.S.-based jobs at risk, and have a negative economic ripple effect on communities supported by arts events.
- Delays in processing are already forcing some organizations and artists to pay the already unaffordable Premium Processing Fee or forgo engaging international artists.
Please click here for a template letter you can use to get the word out. Thanks to the Toronto Musicians Association for this template.