Why do I need a Visa?
Except in very specific circumstances all performance in the U.S. requires a visa, regardless of whether you are being paid or not or appearing before an audience.
Although we hear stories every year of people traveling without the correct documentation and getting away with it, some are not so lucky and, if caught, the penalties are severe.
1. You will never be able to travel to the U.S. again without a visa
2. Processing times for your visa will be far longer than normal
3. You may face a 1, 5 or 10 year ban from being issued a visa for the U.S.
N.B. Following discussions with the U.S. Embassy, it may be possible to be considered exempt from the visa requirements in very specific showcasing situations. You should not yet be at the level of full professional musicians, and be performing an unpaid showcase for a non-paying audience, also have no arrest history and have never been refused a U.S. visa, or refused admission to the U.S., if this is the case we can advise on possible visa free travel. IN ALL OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES A PETITION VISA IS ADVISABLE.
A professional entertainer requires an O or P Visa to perform in the U.S. regardless of the amount or source of compensation, or whether the services will involve a public appearance. However, a professional entertainer may be eligible for visa free travel under the following circumstance:
a. The entertainer is participating in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country, s/he will be performing for a non-paying audience, and ALL expenses will be paid by the member’s government
b. The entertainer is participating in a competition for which there is no remuneration other than a prize and expenses.
What is the process?
THIS IS A TWO HANDED PROCESS. BOTH THE U.S. SIDE AND THE U.K. SIDE HAVE TO OCCUR FOR VALID VISAS TO BE PLACED IN THE PASSPORTS. YOU MUST BEGIN STEP ONE, WITH A U.S. COMPANY, BEFORE WE CAN ASSIST YOU.
Step 1 – Filing an I129 Petition
This is usually done by an attorney on behalf of a U.S. Company representing a band or performer.
If the band/performer have no U.S. representative company we recommend that they contact Tamizdat (details below) who are able to act as the petitioner on behalf of these acts.
Whichever U.S. representative you are using will provide full details of their requirements and a quote when you contact them.
Step 2 – Applying for the Visa in the U.K.
All visa applicants are required to attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy. We generally provide support for those applying in London or Belfast, for other countries we may only be able to assist with paperwork preparation rather than a complete service.
Benmar / TCG London Ltd assists artists in preparing their application documents, booking the appointments, and liaising with the Embassy for the return of the passports. We charge an administrative fee for this, based on the number of applicants, the lead time given and if there are any applicants with arrest histories.
Each band or solo performer constitutes one I129 petition. Should the band have crew, or the solo performer require backing musicians and/or crew, they count as a second petition.
If they applicant under 14 years of age, over 80 or has had a visa issued in the same category in the last 2 years with no arrest or turnaround history they do not require an interview, and we can process for you.
How much will it cost?
The cost in the U.S. is per petition. While costs for immigration professionals vary and can be as much as $8000, in the example below we are using Tamizdat who charge applicants around $780 per petition.
N.B. A petition can have 1 or 50 people on it for the same costs, but keep in mind that crew constitute a separate petition from band with the associated US costs.
The U.K. costs are per person, for visas fees, booking the appointments, return of passports and fees for companies like Benmar/TCG London to prepare these applications for you.
Our fees vary according to the number of applicants.
Example – band with 4 members, leaving 3 months for processing
Government Filing Fee – $320.00
Union advisory letter – $300.00
Tamizdat fees and expenses – $780.00
TOTAL – $1400.00
IF THE VISAS ARE NEEDED IN LESS THAN 3 MONTHS, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OPERATES A 10-15 DAY PETITION PROCESS AT AN ADDITIONAL COST OF $1000.
U.K. Costs – Example
Embassy fees for 4 U.S. visas – £520.00 (this figure changes with exchange rates)
DX fees – £100.00
TCG Fees – £320.00
VAT – £64.00
TOTAL – £1004.00
How long will the visa last?
The length of the visa depends on the category and how long the petitioner requests, based on proposed itineraries and confirmed gigs/recording etc.
O visas for solo artists can be for up to 3 years, though it is unlikely you will be able to put together an itinerary to cover that so 6 months to a year would be more reasonable. P visas are valid for up to 1 Year.
But, it is the same cost whether you apply for 1 week or one year, so it would be useful to put together an itinerary of proposed gigs/recording/collaborative work, spaced across the year, so that you can get more bang for your buck.
Arrest History/Convictions/Overstays and Turnarounds
Anyone who has ever been arrested (even if never charged) must obtain a visa before travelling to the U.S. under any category (tourist, business visitor or performance). The same is true for anyone who has been denied Entry to or has overstayed in the U.S..
The rehabilitation of offenders act is not recognized under U.S. Immigration law. So no arrest ever gets wiped off the system even if it is wiped from U.K. police computers.
Processing time for the visa can be much longer for those you have any of the above problems with entry into the U.S., and previous visa issuance may have no bearing on the time scale for each new visa application.
All applicants with any kind of arrest history will have to obtain an ACPO certificate, which must be less than 6 months old when attending the Embassy appointment.
Depending on the reason for your arrest, you may be sent for a medical to ascertain that you have no ongoing dependency or health problems.
If you were arrested in the U.S. you will also need to get your court files from http://www.uscourts.gov/CourtRecords.aspx
If your were denied entry you must take your turnaround report from U.S Customs and Border Protection, Form I-877 to the interview – If you didn’t keep a copy, you may be able to obtain a copy of the report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Please visit their website at http://www.cbp.gov for further information.
It is strongly recommended that you contact Bill or Gale at Benmar / TCG as soon as possible to discuss the case, if any of this section applies to you.
PRIMARY US CONTACTS
TCG World 286 Madison Avenue, Suite 502, New York, NY 10017 Phone: 212-431- 3700 or 646-502-5051 Fax: 212-431-7107
Jessica Carroll – firstname.lastname@example.org
20 Jay Street #308
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Global Access Entertainment Visas
5670 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1970, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: (323) 936-7100 Fax: (323) 936-7197
Entertainment Visa Consultants LLC
1350 Avenue of the Americas, 2nd Floor
New York NY 10019
P: 1 646 380 2474/2464
F: 1 646 380 2465
M: 1 917 974 1513
RAZCo Visas – Ron Zeelens
119 Fifth Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, NY10003
Tel 212 757 1289
Fax 212 586 5175
Kushner & Kushner
Contact – Laya Kushner
6739 Fairview Road
Charlotte NC 28210
T – +1 704 362 1106
F – +1 704 362 1706