The Music Industry Visa Taskforce of national music industry body UK Music has sent an open letter to the Secretary of State for International Trade expressing deep concerns about the US government’s unilateral decision to increase visa fees for UK artists.
US musicians currently apply for touring visas in the UK and EU without charge but UK Music says the new US fees could make touring unviable. This would damage access to the most important music market in the world.
The 15 music industry organisations who are co-signatories to the letter have called on Liz Truss MP to apply pressure on her department’s US counterparts to review their bureaucratic procedures. They ask her to work with US not-for-profit organisations such as US-based immigration attorneys Tamizdat and Artists From Abroad to make the visa process more accessible.
Since the early 1990s, when the O and P classification visas were introduced, the cost and difficulty of merely applying to play in the USA has risen dramatically, pushing it beyond the means of many musicians. A cap of 25 musicians per application makes it especially difficult for orchestras, according to Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras, who said, ‘It is going to add thousands of dollars the to cost of getting visas to take our world-leading orchestras to the US. Meanwhile, there are no costs at all for US orchestras to perform in the UK. It seems palpably unfair to penalise our members in this way.’
Tom Keihl, the Acting CEO of UK Music, said, ‘It’s vital that British bands and artists can break America, the biggest market in the world… There is now a real risk that these increases will contribute to making US tours unviable at what is already an immensely difficult time for the UK music industry.’
Tamizdat issued a statement saying, ‘These fees create substantial new burdens for the performing arts, which are already in a state of collapse. However, we encourage the international cultural community to remember that this fee increase is a small part of a much bigger problem, in that since the early 1990s the average effective costs of securing a visa for a foreign artist has increased by more than 2000%.’
The Music Industry Visa Taskforce was formed in 2016 in response to the increasing difficulties UK musicians were having applying to tour abroad. It is chaired by the Musicians Union National Organiser, Dave Webster.