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The difficulties and expense musicians in the UK face when applying for US work visas has been well documented over the years. Recently we did see a glimmer of light as the increase to the filing fees was temporarily quashed in a California court, but as they gave with one hand they took away with the other and increased the fee for expedited applications.

We asked our colleagues at Tamizdat in New York what the future may look like under the Biden Administration. Will the changes that Trump brought in be turned around – what may stick and what may go?

Tamizdat told us that one thing is clear – as yet, “it’s hard to know what the Biden Administration’s immigration policy will look like,” so this is largely a series of informed guesses.

Trump travel ban likely to be rolled back

The so called ‘Trump travel ban’ is likely to be rolled back, this essentially racist and xenophobic policy will not sit well with the new leadership.

It is hoped that policies such as the travel ban and the ‘public charge’ rule will be put to rest, however some policies will be more difficult to change than others. The public charge rule was brought in under Federal Regulations instead of an Executive Order, thus making it harder to roll back.

Restrictions are more likely to be based on public health and safety

That said, it is the public health and safety issue that is likely to be a more prominent argument around any restrictions in travel rather than any xenophobic argument under Biden. Whilst Covid-19 remains an issue, restrictions may still be in place but in a more rational and less arbitrary way.

It is hoped however that US Department of State (USDOS) will, over time, be better funded and staffing increased. It will take time to recover from the last four years, and as Tamizdat put it, the concerns raised in relation to artists may take some time before they “rise to the surface of the State Department’s triage.”

Hopes for a more productive relationship

Will the increase in fees that have come in over the past year be rolled back? According to Tamizdat it is hoped for but not a certainty. However, it is also hoped that a more productive relationship with US Citizens and Immigration Service (USCIS) and DOS will emerge.

Tamizdat are “aggressively working now to lay the groundwork for better communications regarding [their] advocacy come January 2021.”

Thanks to Liz Moller and Matthew Covey of Tamizdat for their comments on this.

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Dave Webster

Dave Webster is a National Organiser Live Performance at the Musicians' Union, and is currently heavily engaged in managing the impact of BREXIT and other international issues affecting musicians. Dave joined the MU in 2004 following a busy career as a freelance drummer, percussionist and teacher. Dave’s Union activism came about as a member of the North London Branch Committee and subsequently Chair of that Committee. He also Chaired the Theatre Section Committee. The MU Live Performance department handles a wide range of issues, from international concerns, such as visas and travelling with instruments, to national collective bargaining agreements; busking; building relationships with venues; promoters; festivals and industry bodies.

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Brexit Lobbying Update

An update following the debate held in Westminster Hall on enabling visa and work permit free travel for musicians in the EU, with renewed calls from MPs for the Government to sort out remaining issues for musicians.

Published: 23 November 2021

Read more about Brexit Lobbying Update