Under the new proposals, the cost of P-type and O-type visas could see ‘a 250% increase’

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Musicians in America and abroad are campaigning against proposed increases in US visa fees. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched a ‘public comment period’ on the proposals, which closed earlier this week. The web page received almost 8,000 comments, almost universally critical of the plans, stressing that they would affect a wide set of businesses and individuals beyond just immigrants and their employers.

A campaign launched by the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) urged American musicians to write to their local congressperson, arguing that the fee increase to P-type and O-type visas would impact on international artist touring costs, hurting the local music industries and providing fewer opportunities for smaller artists. ‘Under this proposal, the cost for P and O visas would go from $460 to over $1,600 (a 250% increase), drastically affecting international artists as well as broader U.S. music and cultural industries,’ UMAW said in a statement. ‘In an industry still recovering from the severe effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the proposed fee increases will make it impossible for many international artists to perform in the U.S. The cost of the current visas were already prohibitive for many, but the rising costs associated with touring paired with the tripled cost of a visa will severely impact the desire and ability for international artists to perform here, affecting lower-income and marginalized artists the most.’

USCIS first proposed the visa changes in January 2023 and argued that the new rates were necessary as a result of increased costs at the agency. The proposals may take effect as early as November 2023.

In the UK, the Musicians Union (MU) has issued a statement following a survey of its members around the affordability of the fee increases. It reported: ‘78% of responders said they had plans to tour the US in the future, however 96% told us these increases will impact the feasibility of being able to tour and worryingly 72% said they would no longer be able to afford to go.’

The MU also commented: ‘Due to backlogs and delays in the processing of visas many artists are left with no choice but to use the Premium Processing route. This recently saw a huge increase in cost to $2,500. What is most concerning is that due to these delays in regular processing, musicians have little choice if they are to tour the US.’