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AFM Members Decry USCIS 250% Visa Fee Increases for Touring Performers

Andy O’Brien
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PHOTO: Maine singer/songwriter Dave Rowe (AFM 1000)

The American Federation of Musicians has been highly critical of a new 250 percent visa fee increase for global musicians hoping to tour in the United States. Prior to April 1, musicians and other performing artists from outside the U.S. hoping to perform here paid $460 per person for performance visas, but since then United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has raised the fee to $1,615, or $6,460 for a band with four members. For performers who can’t wait several months for the visa to process, there is an additional fee of $2,805 per application for expedited processing.

“Our music and our culture are so entwined, and one of the ways that cross-cultural understanding crosses borders is when touring musicians do what they do best for crowds of strangers in far-flung places,” said Maine folk singer/songwriter David Rowe, who is a member of AFM Local 1000. “In a divided world, these new visa fees will do nothing but divide us more along international borders. It runs contrary to everything I stand for as a musician and a human being. I'm stunned, saddened, and distraught that, in a time when live music is truly on the ropes, my own government is taking action such as this to hamstring the basics of shared humanity all the more. It's heartbreaking.”

In a letter sent February 8, 2023 to Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member on the House Homeland Security Committee, AFM President Ray Hair asked the USCIS to reconsider the increase in visa fees, which he said would irreparably damage local, state, and federal investment in the US arts and entertainment business. Hair argued that the fees are unaffordable for most entertainment entities, will stifle international cultural activity and have a negative economic ripple effect on communities supported by arts events. He noted that international touring artists contribute to the US economy by filling venues and booking hotels as well as paying US Federal and State Taxes on their performance earnings.