U.S. Visa Restrictions Could Hurt Touring Acts

image from www.fit.edu (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) Members of the touring industry warn that stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration regulations could interfere with the U.S. touring plans of international artists.

According to Billboard, no new regulations have been enacted, but the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Service has begun using a much more restrictive reading of current regulations in approving visas. Formerly, artists wishing to work and tour in the U.S. needed to apply for a work visa (type "O" for solo artists or "P" for groups). The visa would then cover the artist for a period of time; up to three years for a solo artist and up to one year for a group. Additionally, a U.S.-based sponsor such as a label, manager or tour promoter was needed to apply for the visa.

Under the new, stricter interpretation, artists now are required to provide a detailed itinerary, including ...

a specific length and with a detailed itinerary for the tour. Additionally, the USCIS has become stricter in enforcing who may serve as a sponsor for the artist. The new strictness is also expensive and errors in filing can cost artists as much as $6,000 in additional filing fees Billboard reported.Since this new interpretation of the regulations went into effect, numerous artists have been forced to cancel gigs or revise planned tours. One such artist, Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle was forced to withdraw from New York's CMJ Marathon in October behind visa headaches.

"SXSW would have been great for Speech Debelle," Debelle's agent Tom Windish told Billboard. "The excitement and attention from the Mercury Prize would have worn off in four or five months' time."

Other artists such as Imogen Heap was nearly forced to cancel her fall tour due to the new interpretation of the regulations, which were quietly introduced last summer and only explicated by USCIS in October Billboard said.

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