US visa fee increase for touring artists delayed after pushback

The US is facing growing pressure from professionals in the music industry to reconsider a proposed hike in visa fees for touring artists. The planned 250% increase in costs, which was initially announced by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in January, has been postponed and is now scheduled to take effect in March 2024.


The visas affected by this change are the P and O class visas, which are essential for artists, entertainers, and various creative industry workers who need to undertake short-term jobs in the US and have the ability to return within a span of one to three years. The proposed fees for these visas will soar from the current $460 to $1,615 and $1,655, respectively, far surpassing the 50% increase proposed in 2020.


The mounting opposition to this fee hike is driven by campaigners and politicians who fear it could discourage international talent from embarking on tours in the US, particularly those in the early stages of their careers or from grassroots backgrounds. There are also concerns that the increased costs could lead to higher ticket prices for events, which have already been rising steeply in recent years.


Stephen Parker, the Executive Director of the National Independent Venue Association, expressed serious concern about the USCIS proposal, stating that it poses both economic and cultural threats to independent live entertainment in the US. He highlighted the crucial role international performers play on American stages and cited a 2023 survey that revealed how international talent constitutes over a quarter of performances at an average venue, and for Latin music promoters, this can even reach 100 percent. Parker appreciated the decision to delay the final rule-making until March 2024 but asserted that NIVA will continue to strive to prevent the proposed fee increases.


In addition to the US situation, visa costs and requirements have also increased and become more complex for European artists touring the UK and vice versa, following Brexit.