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Work visa extortionate fees

Haruo 26 Mar 09 - 10:45 PM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 26 Mar 09 - 10:51 PM
Acme 26 Mar 09 - 11:04 PM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 26 Mar 09 - 11:18 PM
GUEST,ShipSing 27 Mar 09 - 12:16 AM
Hrothgar 27 Mar 09 - 01:18 AM
GUEST,Peace 27 Mar 09 - 02:02 AM
Piers Plowman 27 Mar 09 - 05:58 AM
Piers Plowman 27 Mar 09 - 05:59 AM
nickp 27 Mar 09 - 06:30 AM
nickp 27 Mar 09 - 06:32 AM
breezy 27 Mar 09 - 07:28 AM
caitlin rua 27 Mar 09 - 07:51 AM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 27 Mar 09 - 08:32 AM
Big Mick 27 Mar 09 - 08:41 AM
breezy 27 Mar 09 - 09:05 AM
Big Mick 27 Mar 09 - 09:15 AM
meself 27 Mar 09 - 09:39 AM
Trevor Thomas 27 Mar 09 - 11:22 AM
breezy 27 Mar 09 - 11:25 AM
Big Mick 27 Mar 09 - 12:02 PM
Maryrrf 27 Mar 09 - 12:05 PM
meself 27 Mar 09 - 01:13 PM
Marc Bernier 27 Mar 09 - 04:19 PM
GUEST,ShipSing 27 Mar 09 - 11:07 PM
GUEST 29 Mar 09 - 04:04 AM
Leadfingers 29 Mar 09 - 09:49 AM
Rabbi-Sol 29 Mar 09 - 01:12 PM
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Subject: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Haruo
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 10:45 PM

ShipSing: "Tom Lewis has reluctantly cancelled his concert appearance at Northwest Seaport in Seattle on April 25. It seems that the U.S. has raised the cost of a visa for Tom to work in the U.S. to $1000. (Tom lives in Canada.) We hope this isn't the last we see of Tom in the U.S.; he's a wonderful performer."

Marc Bernier: "Interesting. Canada just charged me $150 to do a one night gig in Sherbrooke, QC."

Where do we turn to complain about this sort of ripoff on the part of our various governments?

Haruo


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 10:51 PM

As a US booking agent who has applied for literally hundreds of visas to bring performers to the US from the UK and other countries, may I say a word or two here?

First, the fee for a visa is not $1000.00 It is $320.00.

The $1,000.00 surcharge is for a category of visa called "Premium Processing," and this category guarantees that your petition will be adjudicated within fifteen business days. It does *not* guarantee that you will be *granted* a visa, just that you will get a decision within fifteen days.

If a visa petition is filed in a timely manner, and does not need the last-minute "Premium Processing" category, then there is no need for anyone to pay any more than the $320.00 base fee.

I am not defending the DHS here, I am just trying to correct an inaccuracy in the previous post. I'm also not arguing that these fees are quite high, and are in some cases a real hardship for performers.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Acme
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 11:04 PM

I suppose you can't just say you're going for a visit and not mention you're working for the night?

Nah. That would be too easy, wouldn't it? Off the books. Time-honored way to work in the U.S. but probaby a bummer if you're caught.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 11:18 PM

It is, of course, illegal to work in the US without a work visa.

A high-profile artist on a major tour (20-30 cities) could never hope to slip under the radar. And most of the reputable venues pay only by check, which means they send a 1099 to the IRS indicating that a gig was played.

Only a lower-profile artist, and only one playing a very small number of lower-profile gigs which do not advertise and which pay in cash (auch as house concerts) could possibly escape notice. And again, that is illegal. :-)


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: GUEST,ShipSing
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 12:16 AM

I had the info from Tom second hand from the person who was doing the booking, so I don't know the exact circumstances. The time frame may have been a factor.

You would think two months, or even one month, would be enough time for the U.S. to process a visa application without a premium fee, but apparently not.

I do know Tom wasn't planning a major tour. He was just going to come across the border from BC to Washington to do a couple of gigs. One was a benefit for the Sea Scouts in Tacoma, and he also booked a concert at the non-profit organization Northwest Seaport.

As some other posters mentioned, some lower-profile artists use evasive tactics to get in, but that wouldn't have worked for Tom Lewis.

I do think the visa fees are outrageous, even at $320. Here Tom wanted to do a couple of gigs to help out some non-profit organizations, and couldn't do so.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Hrothgar
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 01:18 AM

"... a couple of gigs to help out some non-profit organizations ..."

If he's getting paid, he's helping Tom Lewis, too.

If he's not getting paid, which I assume is the case, shouldn't it be classed as a "personal interest" or "hobby" visit, and not need a work visa (let's ignore a few CD sales along the way, because they are probably for cash)?

$320 might seem a bit steep, but it looks like another one of those occasions where the honest person is paying for the extensive checking etc they have to do on the crooks.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 02:02 AM

I wonder if Bush paid the fee when he went to Calgary. Be a neat question to ask. AND, did he pay the taxes on his fee?


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 05:58 AM

To help an acquaintance here in Germany who wants to work in the US, I once contacted the US Embassy here to try to get information about applying for a work visa. The only way for non-US citizens to get information was through a website ($10 charge) or a 0900 number. I called the number, was put on hold for several minutes, then was given a message with the office hours, and the connection ended. When I got the charge on the phone bill, I disputed it, because no service had been performed. I complained to everyone in sight and finally got my money back, but I'd spent half of the amount writing letters and making phone calls.

I told the embassy that this practice was a disgrace. What I've read here comes to me as no surprise. Yesterday on the news, I heard that Social Services in the town where I live (in Germany) has reduced the welfare payment of someone here, because one of the social workers saw him begging, looked into his hat, estimated how much he could "earn" during 20 days per month, and deducted this amount from his monthly allotment. The monthly allotment is not enough to live on.

After all, the money to pay for bank managers' bonuses has to come from somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 05:59 AM

"I called the number, was put on hold for several minutes, then was given a message with the office hours, and the connection ended. When I got the charge on the phone bill, I disputed it, because no service had been performed."

When I complained, I was told that I had received "important information" and that this constituted a service and justified the charges.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: nickp
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 06:30 AM

Work permits in the UK currentlly cost £190, that's per act (from band to solo) and have to be applied for via a Home Office acredited person - usually the artists agent or a recognised festival. There is no 'do it yourself' option and although I believe there may be online 'agencies' who will do this for you for a fee I'm not convinced they are successful - or even legal.

There was some disussion about changing the application process but that seems to have gone quiet.

Artists performing here are expected to pay tax either on an previously agreed figure including expenses or on a flat %age of INCOME. Again usually dealt with by the agent.

Minefields...

Nick


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: nickp
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 06:32 AM

Oh, and that £190 permit applies to a single gig or a whole tour but the gig dates do have to be notified in advance, you can't get a permit and then find work.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: breezy
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 07:28 AM

Serves us right for calling singing 'work'

Lets get off our high horses, singing is just that.

Shovelling rubbish for the council, thats work.

We are a deluded bunch.

go on a singing holiday/weekend break


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: caitlin rua
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 07:51 AM

The singing isn't the "work" part. It's the endless driving, living out of a suitcase and often being separated from your family, hours spent hanging around waiting, using up huge amounts of time, energy and money hustling for gigs and putting out PR. Etc etc etc etc.

Not sure what that has to do with visas anyway.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 08:32 AM

Above was written:
If he's not getting paid, which I assume is the case, shouldn't it be classed as a "personal interest" or "hobby" visit, and not need a work visa (let's ignore a few CD sales along the way, because they are probably for cash)?

Absolutely correct. If an artist is coming to the US only to do a benefit concert *for which s/he is not getting paid*, then there is no need for a work visa. The artist can come in on a tourist visa. There *may* however be questions asked at customs re the purpose of a guitar (or whatever musical instrument), so one needs to be ready to say "for personal use only" and also to declare the value of the instrument going in and out. Bringing CDs in for a "vacation" will also send up a flag; in the case of a benefit concert, these should be shipped ahead to the venue and held there for the artist's arrival.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Big Mick
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 08:41 AM

I don't understand some folks. Singing isn't work, but perfecting one's craft is, practice, arranging, time spent booking, travelling, setting up, breaking down, equipment upkeep, etc. certainly is. I often tell folks that they aren't paying me for performing, I love doing that. It's everything that goes with it that they are paying for. I once had a pub owner, who was trying to convince me to play for less. He wanted our band very badly because he knows we fill houses, folks have a great time, they stay in their seats and buy product, and he always has a good evening. I told him I wouldn't take a cent less, and he accused me of being in it only for the money. I asked him what he was in it for? I told him I would take less if he charged less for the drink. He, of course, declined saying he was the one with overhead. I challenged him to put his overhead and net profit up against mine. He again declined. People just don't realize the investment we have in our music.

As to work visa fees, they just are what they are. If you aren't building them into the equation when you plan a tour, including the appropriate time frames for filing, the problem is yours, not the agency involved. Musicians need to act like pro's and understand the business side of all this. If all you want to do is sing a few songs for your mates, fair enough. But if you are taking the tuppence, you have to put on a professional show, and you have to plan as if you are in business. These fees are a part of that.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: breezy
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 09:05 AM

Shall we discuss what could be best described as 'chores' as opposed to 'work'

I think Mary K has the answer

Big m you are being paid to perform, the chores just go with the territory

I dont get paid to commute, its just goes with having to get to the work place.

Its a choice to either stay in or go out

If it has become your 'work' then maybe you will have sold your soul

A viewpoint rather than a belief.

I dont 'work' anymore


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Big Mick
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 09:15 AM

It's not an "either/or" proposition, breezy. I think it is the absoluteness of your comment that indicates to me that you are not a working musician. I can't think of many of the artists I have been around that don't love what they do. It is still their profession. They both love it, put their soul into it, and pay the bills with it. Your comment that, If it has become your 'work' then maybe you will have sold your soul..., if you will forgive me, is so much cliche'd claptrap. Of course it is my work, if work is how I pay the rent. But that has nothing to do with me "selling my soul". You may check with those that have heard me sing. My soul is in everything I do.

I do agree that you have choices. One of those choices is to treat the earning of income with the respect that it deserves. Another is to treat the music with the respect it deserves. Both of those and many others are what goes into a career that allows one to go on and make a living.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: meself
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 09:39 AM

Perhaps you don't get paid to commute - but if your wages do not cover the costs that pertain to your work, then it is unlikely you will choose to keep your job.

But - what exactly are you trying to say, Breezy? That people should not sing for money, or that it's okay to sing for money but that you shouldn't factor in any of the associated expense and bother when negotiating your wage? And what's it have to do with what Mary K has to say, which is simply the relaying of info. about work visas?

And what is the difference between performing a 'chore' and doing 'work'?

You've got me confused ...


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 11:22 AM

I've never seen the rule that says you're not allowed to enjoy your work, but that's by the by.

If you're providing any sort of good or service (including a performance) for which you are receiving payment, then the US government will, quite reasonably, assess that you are working. As such, you'll need to get a permit.

Trying to claim 'It's not really work, because I'm enjoying myself' will be unlikely to succeed in the event of an appeal.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: breezy
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 11:25 AM

O K Mick , so what happens when you dont sing for your livlihood?

Most 'musicians' as such have sacrificed other careers to 'follow their heart's desire and live the dream'

I feel sorry for those who can only read 'dots' though I may not need to

Also I regard those who earn from 'sport' as 'living their dreams'.

Sometimes dreams do not pay the rent.

So what does one do then poor thing?

hey meselyersel, some folk are easily confused, so don't worry, and its never a wage, its always a negotiated fee and the payee only pays what he thinks he/she can afford so that in the case of a landlord they can make a profit and never what the artiste feels its worth.

I still agrre with Mary K's points.

Dont give up a day job folks unless you are very, very lucky.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Big Mick
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 12:02 PM

Damn, breezy .... I am trying, but I just am not sure what you are on about, but that's OK. Let's just move on with the discussion. I am sure your point is clear in your mind, as mine is in my own mind. We can let folks sort it out.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Maryrrf
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 12:05 PM

I don't really 'get' what Breezy is trying to say either.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: meself
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 01:13 PM

Apparently you are "easily confused" too. And apparently that means that you are unworthy of clarification. Oh, well.

Oh - does anyone find anything to DISagree with in Mary K's points?


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 04:19 PM

Well said Mick.


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: GUEST,ShipSing
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 11:07 PM

I'm not a musician myself, but for some years I have volunteered my time for non-profit organizations that put on live folk concerts, particularly of maritime music. I don't know anyone who's getting rich playing folk music; they are all in this because they love the music. Most have other jobs; a very few are struggling to make a living as musicians.

But even if musicians have other jobs, they shouldn't have to pay for the privilege of performing. Musicians have legitimate expenses. At the bare minimum, they should make enough to pay for their gas (petrol). This is why most musicians who are playing a benefit will book a few other gigs nearby to cover their travel expenses. Ideally, musicians should make something to reward their talent and dedication. I think Mick explained that very well.

The visa fees that various countries are charging are disproportionate to the amount of money that a folk musician can expect to make. Those of us who love music should be concerned about this, because it's discouraging the flow of music across borders. Music thrives on cross-pollination, on musicians interacting with each other and with audiences.

Here in Washington State, we are close to the Canadian border and have in the past had a lot of musicians traveling back and forth. This is getting increasingly more complicated and expensive due to "Homeland Security".

The question that Haruo asked at the beginning of this thread was a good one – where do we send the complaint letters? I don't know the answer, but I would welcome suggestions. It would be great if some of those who are viewing Mudcat could send letters to the appropriate politicians.

I see by poking around the internet that certain professions mentioned in the NAFTA agreement don't even have to get a visa to pass from Canada to work in the U.S., if they have a job offer. Why shouldn't musicians get this kind of respect?


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Mar 09 - 04:04 AM

I'v been thinking about this for a couple of days now and I'v decided to make another comment. First of all, at no point did I feel I was unfairly treated by the Canadian Border people, as a matter of fact I was impressed with the courteous professional manner in which I was treated.

I arrived at the border between Vermont and Quebec at noon time with a van full of instruments and sound equipment, and boxes of CDs. When asked what my Business was in Canada my response was I was playing a party. The next obvious question was "do you have a work permit?" to which I responded "I wasn't getting paid," (I was lying) "I didn't think I needed one". I was asked to park the van, which received a token searching, and come inside. An hour or so later, after some minor Dialogue, and them calling the Bar owner where I was to play, he being an honest and morally upright Canadian Citizen told them he was paying me. They made me this offer, If I would be so kind as to apply for a work permit, they may well be able to grant me passage into Canada that day. Application fee $150. 20 minutes later the French/Canadian woman wished me a Happy St Patrick's Day, have a nice evening.

I'd never taken a gig outside the US before so I didn't find any of this to be remarkably painful. After being granted a work permit, and I'm not exaggerating this took an Hour and a half at the most, I asked what the proper procedure would have been. I apologized for inconveniencing them and played the inexperienced small time folk singer. The response I received was even more courteous than earlier. The woman apologized for my inconvenience and explained that the problem had been I was an American applying to work in Canada. The system is apparently designed as such that, this is the employer's responsibility. She went on to explained that had he as a Canadian Citizen had applied to the Department of Human Services, the cost would have been about a quarter of what I'd just paid, and that musicians do in fact generally receive automatic approval, providing there is no other factor making them undesirable, (Arrest record, etc …). And that the Canadian Government in fact does recognize the importance of a cultural and or artistic exchange, that I am certainly not viewed as taking work from a Canadian. She continued to stress the point that my inconvenience was a result of the Bar Owners irresponsibility, and that I should remind him of that.

She also made it clear that he owed me a buck and a half. But that's another story.

    Post anonymized - just to be careful.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Leadfingers
Date: 29 Mar 09 - 09:49 AM

Having been an Amateur Jazz and Folk Musician , AND a Semi Pro Ditto . AND a Working Pro Entertainer , I cant understad what point Breezy is trying to make either !
It used to amuse me , when I stil had the day job , that on occasions
IF I commented that I had a Gig that night and was asked "What do youget Paid" , when I replied , say £60 , I would be told " Thats money for nothing , isnt it ?" despite the fact of LOT of years learning a number of instruments and learning songs and tunes , as well as lugging about £2000 worth of P A and instruments in a car worth HALF that .
Is or is not The Labourer worthy of his hire ?


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Subject: RE: Work visa extortionate fees
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 29 Mar 09 - 01:12 PM

I know of 2 musicians (I will not mention names) who were able to get around this problem in a clever way. They travelled to the UK as emissaries for a non profit folk music club in New York to a non-profit folk music club in London. All the venues paid the fees to the UK club which kept them until the 2 performers were finished with their tour and safely back on American soil. The British club then sent a check to the club in NY which later reimbursed the 2 performers for their gigs.


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