The UK music industry is calling on Business and Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch to help block plans for a huge rise in US visa costs that will hit touring UK musicians and crew.
Industry body, UK Music has written to the cabinet minister urging her to persuade her American counterparts to drop the “deeply damaging” hike that would see fees rise by at least 251%.
Data from LIVE, which represents the live music sector, shows that these proposals will put 50% of all UK tours in the USA under threat.
In the letter, signed by organisations from across the UK music industry, UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin highlights the potential impact of the proposed increase in fees by the US Department of Homeland Security for certain types of touring visa fees for non-US citizens.
He has urged the Business and Trade Secretary to join calls for the planned visa hikes to be scrapped to avoid dealing a major blow to the UK music industry and its talent pipeline.
Music industry leaders are also urging Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to join efforts to scrap the hike, which is also being fiercely opposed by the American music industry.
UK Music said that with the ongoing cost of living crisis and the UK’s live music sector still recovering from the impact of Covid-19, the visa increases would make it unaffordable for many British acts to work and perform in the world’s biggest music market.
It said the process for applying for a US visa is already long, complex, and prohibitively expensive for many UK musicians. Last year, even before the proposed price hikes were announced, Mercury Prize-winning artist Little Simz cancelled her US tour, citing the financial unviability for an independent artist.
In a survey by UK Music members, Music Managers Forum (MMF) and the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), 70% of their members said the increased visa charges would mean they were no longer be able to tour the USA.
According to the Musicians Union, 96% of their members surveyed said that increased fees will impact the feasibility of future touring, and 26% noted that they will now make a loss on their tours because of this.
The proposals mean that petition fees for the P visa – used for acts to perform temporarily in the US – will increase by 251% from $460 (£385) to $1,615 (£1352) and the O visa – used for a longer-term working visit – would climb by 260% from $460 (£385) to $1,655 (£1,375).
The time for fast processing of applications is being increased from 15 calendar days to 15 working days, without a decrease in costs, for a service that already costs $2,500 (£2,080).
Njoku-Goodwin said, “America is one of the most important global markets for British musicians, and breaking into the States can be critical to a musician or band’s career – but this increase in visa fees risks making a US tour unaffordable for emerging acts.
“These deeply damaging proposals would be catastrophic, both for UK artists and for their American audiences who have a huge appetite for British music. These plans must be scrapped.
“The UK and US have enjoyed decades of mutually beneficial musical exchange that have strengthened our special relationship and brought huge social, cultural and economic benefits. We should be making it easier for musicians to tour the States, not harder.
“We call on ministers to urgently raise this issue with their US counterparts and work with them to avoid an outcome that would be mutually detrimental to both our countries.”