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Music industry calls on UK trade minister to put pressure on US over visa fees increase

By | Published on Monday 28 September 2020

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Fifteen UK music industry organisations have signed a letter to the British government’s international trade minister Liz Truss urging her to put pressure on her US counterparts regarding the recently confirmed significant increases in the costs associated with applying for visas to perform in America.

The letter, organised by the Music Industry Visa Taskforce and sent via UK Music, expresses “the deep concern that the recent imposing of increased filing fees for artist visas by the US government adds increased costs and diminishes cultural exchange”.

Those increases come, of course, as the UK artist community continues to deal with the huge impact of COVID-19 on the live side of the business, and on top of concerns about what a no-deal Brexit could mean for touring across Europe when artists are finally able to get properly back on the road.

Plus, as many of the organisations signing the letter point out, the costs and administration associated with artist visas for playing in the US were already seen has being too onerous even before the recent fee increases.

The signatories of the letter say that they “call on the UK government to apply pressure on their US counterparts to review their bureaucratic procedures, work with US not-for-profit organisations such as Tamizdat and Artists From Abroad and bring about change that makes the visa process more accessible, while promoting cultural exchange for artists at all stages of their career”.

On the fee increase, a spokesperson for the there mentioned Tamizdat, a New York-based organisation that seeks to facilitate international cultural exchange, said: “These fee increases create substantial new burdens for the performing arts, which are already in a state of collapse. However, we encourage the international cultural community to remember that this fee increase is a small part of a much bigger problem, in that since the early 1990s the average effective cost of securing a visa for a foreign artist has increased by more than 2000%”.

Meanwhile, Dave Webster from the Musicians’ Union, who also chairs the Music Industry Visa Taskforce, stated: “British musicians aiming to work in the US have – since the early 1990s when the [current visa] classifications were introduced – found performing in the US an increasingly expensive and precarious undertaking. This recent increase in the filing fee adds further to costs, which are already beyond the means of many musicians”.