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US Government Delays Visa Hikes for International Touring Musicians

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has agreed to delay the implementation of a visa rate hike that would negatively impact touring musicians.

Under proposed guidelines announced in January 2023, the cost of O and P visas for international touring musicians and other visitors would increase by more than 250%. The USCIS is now delaying the rate hike until at least March 2024 and is considering lowering the rate increase altogether.

Congressman Maxwell Frost of Florida — who knows a thing or two about live music — led a group of Congressional Democrats in calling for the USIC to reverse its position. “USCIS’s decision to delay their proposed rate hikes and go back to the drawing board is the right move to support our nation’s small business community and for the hundreds of thousands of traveling artists who are a critical part of our local economy,” said Congressman Frost.

Stephen Parker, Executive Director of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), said that the “USCIS proposal to drastically increase visa fees for international performers poses a severe economic and cultural threat to independent live entertainment in the U.S. It undermines the vital role these performers play on our stage. A 2023 survey of independent venues, festivals, and promoters revealed that international talent accounts for over a quarter of performances at an average venue and can even make up 100 percent of performances for Latin music promoters. While we appreciate the USCIS decision to delay final rulemaking on this issue until March 2024, NIVA will continue working to stop the proposed fee increases.”

A USCIS spokesperson previously told Billboard that rate increases would not impact musicians themselves, but rather their U.S. employers, including promoters, club owners, labels, or festival producers. However, critics of the policy say the employers would simply pass these increased fees onto the artists while also raising ticket prices.