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Performing in the U.S.

What you need to know

July 2017 – Performing at a showcase in the US? ESTA is no longer the way to go.

On this page you will find information about:

  • Applying for SXSW
  • The visa process and costs
  • US Embassy interview process
  • Free advice you can access with your MU membership

Performing at a Showcase Event

Are you thinking of applying for SXSW?

Watch this informative video produced by the PRS International Showcase Fund for some down to earth advice about the event and the fund.

Music Industry Taskforce

The MU has received horrendous reports of cancelled tours and rearranged flights due to failures in the US work visa processing mechanism. In response, the Musicians’ Union (MU) and British Underground (BU) invited industry organisations to form a taskforce to look at how these issues can best be addressed.

The taskforce met for the first time in December 2015 and are now consulting a wider industry group of musicians and managers who have suffered under the current process.

One of the priorities for the taskforce is lobbying for greater parity between UK and US visa costs and processes. The cost of a four-piece British band requiring work visas and petitions for a US tour can be in the region of $6000 and can often take months to process. At the end of the process the band members have to attend an interview at the US Embassy to get their visas. In contrast the cost of Certificates of Sponsorship for a similar-sized American band to tour the UK would be as little as £21.00 (rising by a couple of hundred pounds if a 3rd party immigration company is used), and the entire process can be done in one day without the need for the band members to go anywhere or submit their passports. Unpaid showcases can be done in the UK by US bands, without the need for any immigration applications or expense, as long as they are not directly selling any merchandise. This disparity is a huge disincentive and obstacle to British acts performing in the US.

According to PRS for Music Foundation, visa costs represent 18% of the total amount requested by International Showcase Fund applicants and Joe Frankland of the PRS for Music Foundation says, “It’s fair to say that roughly 50% of those invited to showcase at SXSW aren’t able to attend, partly due to the restrictive costs of visas.”

Dave Webster, MU National Organiser for Live Performance and Chair of the Music Industry Visa Task Force, says: “This longstanding issue remains a huge concern to the MU. The aim of the task force is to persuade the US authorities to work with us to find workable solutions to the problems musicians encounter. UK musicians have always fared well in the US and it’s a significant market for our members.”

Our thanks go to Steve and Tina Richard of T&S immigration Services Ltd for their help with the visa information.

Which Work Visa Do I Need?

If you are considering applying for a US work visa, you have three options to choose from. These are an O, P and B Visa. Find out more about the three types of visas and the application process.

If you fear you may be affected by the US Travel Ban (Executive Order 13769), please visit travel.state.gov for the latest updates.

MU members should also look at Artists From Abroad’s guide to immigration and visa processing for more information.

US Embassy Visa Interview Change

Further to a meeting that took place in November between the Music Industry Visa Task Force and Officials from the US Embassy, the MU and British Underground are pleased to report that the US Embassy in London has agreed to release timeslots for visa interviews up to 11.30am, to help avoid the need for overnight stays in London to attend the early 8.00am interviews.

The Embassy has informed the Union that, “From Monday, December 12, we will make available five appointments per day at 11:30 a.m. for those applicants who have to travel a distance to London, so that they will not have to spend the previous night in the capital to make the early-morning slots. 

“Please do be aware, however, that those who take the later appointment may have to wait a bit longer for their interview, as they will be behind the bulk of the applicants who have earlier appointments.  We try to get through the interviews as quickly as possible – and most people do not have to wait longer than 90 minutes.  It’s just that applicants who take the first slots in the morning generally don’t have to wait longer than 30-45 minutes for their interviews.”

Free Viva La Visa Advice for MU Members

Are you planning on working in the US, Canada, China, or Australia?

We are delighted to be able to let our members know that Viva La Visa has offered to give free advice to MU members who are looking to perform in foreign territories and need visa advice.

Viva La Visa manage the visa processing for many of the UK’s top artists, and whilst it might be just advice you are looking for, if you are an MU Member they will be happy to discuss your requirements with no obligation.

Should members wish to engage the services of Viva La Visa to process their visa application then they will receive a 20% discount on quoted fees.

Viva La Visa’s founder Andy Corrigan is a member of the Music Industry Visa Task Force set up by the MU and British Underground to address the issues not only of US visas, but now what might happen post BREXIT.

Dave Webster MU Live Performance Organiser says: “Since the formation of the Taskforce, we have made some progress in this long standing and difficult area for our members. It’s good that the industry has come together in mutual support and no more so than this offer of assistance from the experts at Viva La Visa”.

Andy Corrigan says: "We're aware that most working musicians will reach a point where they intend to take their work overseas, and that the visa process can be mind-boggling at the best of times! It only makes sense for us to team up with the MU to ensure that all confusion is cleared, and we can help guide musicians every step of the way, so they can reach their full potential internationally."

Members wishing to contact Viva La Visa can call them on 01473 892660 or email hello@vivalavisa.co.uk

Related downloads

O P and B1 Visa Procedures Handout From US Officials (PDF 31.61 bytes file opens in new window)