Canadian band with a US tour – Do you need a work visa and how to get one.
Are you a band that is from Canada and touring in the US? Will you be paying your members and crew while in the US and making guarantees at your shows? If so, you will need to apply and file for a Work Visa.
1. As soon as your group has confirmed dates in the US you will need to hire an immigration lawyer (I normally work with RazCo Visas based in New York.) However, there are plenty of companies out there that do this and generally all work the same.
2. You will need to have an American company in place that you work with such as a Booking Agent, Label, Publisher etc, who can act as your petitioner confirming your details and saying you will be working in the USA.
3. From there you need to apply for the Visa process. Each Canadian member/crew fill out a form providing their passport info and personal details which will all be sent to the US immigration office. Canadians with any criminal record will not be eligible. This will be done all at once as a “band” file. Normally your lead member will file for what’s called an O1/P1 Visa and the other members and crew will file for an O2/P2 attaching onto that applicant.
4. You then have to apply for the “band” to be approved, which will show your success to date. What happens here is you will be asked to mail out any of your discography/albums as well as hard copy and printed press which all gets sent to the US immigration office to process. The more the better in this case as it will increase your chances for approval.
5. The price is the same if you are filing for one member or six members. So always best to do all band and crew at once. Instead of add on people as you go. A normal filing process can take normally around 30 days so you need to have all of your papers and press submitted before that. After the 30 days, you will be notified if you have been approved and where you would like your hard copy visas sent to. The cost to file approximately $2625 for your group at the standard 30 day filing rate. OR you have an option to do a “fast track” which is 15 days or less and $3850 for the group.
As you can see there are plenty of steps and you should always give yourself ample amount of time in advance to file. During the process things can always come up which delay the application and as you can see above you can save yourself a lot of money if this is done in advance at the regular 30 day filing rate.
If and when you are approved you will be Fedexed hard copies. I suggest making several copies and leave them at home. You will need to take the originals with you on tour and keep them somewhere safe. When you first cross the border with your group the immigration officer will staple a piece of paper into your passport which will than act as your traveling visa.
Note: Visas generally expire after one year, if additional time needs to be added on you will need to apply for a renewal, which is the same price and time as the first. So again remember to file in advance if you know that will be necessary.