The US has raised the price of the visa application for performing artists visiting the country.
The rate hike for the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, which is required for all artists, musicians and others—including DJs—traveling to the US for work, will come into effect on December 23rd, jumping from $325 per person to $460. As Pitchfork reports, that's a 42% increase.
The decision has already drawn ire from groups like the Canadian Federation Of Musicians, who called it an "unacceptable financial burden." Speaking to RA over the phone, Ryan Smith from Liaison Artists—which counts The Black Madonna, Tale Of Us and Daniel Avery among its roster—echoed the criticism. "The process is already extremely expensive and time consuming in relation to other countries," he said, adding that "hopefully the service will get better if there is an increase."
Jason Garden, the talent buyer at Chicago's smartbar, also weighed in with a statement.
As long as I’ve worked at smartbar, the US visa process has been a bit of a thorn in our side. While I completely understand the need to document and tax folks who are working in the US, the process itself is often drawn out and expensive to the point that it interferes with the artists and venues the government is trying to serve. While the increase in fee is probably nominal for some larger artists with managers and agents (and often lawyers) who can lobby on their behalf, it makes it increasingly (often prohibitively) difficult for emerging talent to break into the US market.
Additionally, these delays and added costs often make the process unpredictable such that we routinely have to cancel or postpone events at the last minute due to unexpected visa complications—which is not only disappointing for fans, but a huge financial burden for those parties looking to make the events happen. On a just the surface level, clubs and artist devote their (often limited) resources to planning a tour and promoting a night, only to have the opportunity ultimately rest at the less-than-stellar expediency of the visa office. Accordingly, it makes it very difficult to have the confidence required to schedule events with new artists and discourages attempts to bring fresh faces over to American audiences.
When a show can’t happen at the last minute, literally everyone involved loses out (except, of course, the visa office, whom it does not affect in any way). To drive home the point, we, as a club, lose a massive amount of business (promotional costs, operational costs, refunds, forfeited booking fees, angry patrons, etc.) and the artist has wasted their own resources (flights, legal fees, lost wages, etc.). It’s not hard to imagine what a burden such a last minute cancellation would be for smaller venues or underground promoters. We are lucky that we can largely absorb such losses—for many others these losses can be catastrophic.
So, while the upfront money is certainly part of the problem, the unpredictability and difficulty of the process is perhaps an equal or greater obstacle for all parties involved.