It isn’t going to get any easier for Americans to see their favorite DJs from Europe, or from anywhere else in the world, for that matter. As if the ongoing coronavirus pandemic wasn’t a big enough hurdle, artists visiting the U.S. will soon need to deal with a more than 50 percent fee hike and increased wait time to secure visas.
That’s because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week updated its policy manual with a new, final fee rule guidance. Effective October 2, filing fees will increase for the O and P visas, which touring artists typically use. Fees for the O visa for “Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement” will rise 53 percent, from $460 to $705. The P visa for artists, entertainers, athletes and their spouses and children, will increase 51 percent, from $460 to $695. Additionally, a petition will be capped at 25 individuals, so large touring groups will have to apply for multiple visas.
Many members of the arts sector opposed the fee changes, with commenters saying “artists would be unable to afford to perform here,” according to a USCIS document on the final rule published in August. Another commenter said that “if artists are unable to come to the U.S., the public will be denied the opportunity to ‘experience international artistry.’”
In response, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it “agrees” the arts are “vitally important and beneficial.” Nevertheless, it said the higher fees are “intended to recover the estimated full cost to USCIS of providing immigration adjudication and naturalization services.” Furthermore, “any preferential treatment provided to petitioners for performers and musicians is borne by other petitioners, applicants, and requestors,” which the DHS declined to do.
Longer Visa Wait Time
Besides the price jump, USCIS is changing its premium processing service—which costs $1,440—from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. The fee changes “exacerbate” existing uncertainty for petition approvals and lengthy processing periods, a commenter said in August.
The agencies proposed the fee changes last November, before Covid-19 halted artists touring as well as live events. As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the U.S., organizers of all major festivals have postponed until 2021. When events return, foreign artists will have to prepare to pay more and apply sooner in order to play. Of course, there are many talented American producers and DJs. But fans always look forward to watching many of the greats, from countries like the Netherlands and Sweden.
America isn’t the only country that will be harder for some DJs to travel to. Just before the global pandemic, the United Kingdom announced that in light of Brexit, musicians coming from the European Union would need Tier 5 visas starting in 2021.