On 1 December the MU published a news item setting out what the future may look like for musicians under a new US President. This was based on information supplied by our colleagues at Tamizdat and the Artist Mobility Forum. Some of those predictions have come to fruition as President Biden takes office and starts to right a few wrongs imposed by the previous administration.
The Artist Mobility Forum have now informed us of the following.
Changes to travel restrictions
The 'Trump Muslim Majority’ travel ban has been lifted. On his first day in office President Biden did away with this. It affected people from primarily Muslim-majority countries, placing restrictions on visa issuance to nationals of the following countries: Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela and Yemen.
That said, and as predicted in December, travel restrictions that are Covid-19 related are in place. Just before Trump stood down, he issued a proclamation ordering the pandemic-related travel restrictions currently imposed on the Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland and Brazil to be lifted on 26 January.
It was confirmed on 25 January that President Biden signed a proclamation extending the ban indefinitely and added South Africa to the list of restricted countries. This came into effect on 30 January.
Testing and self-quarantining required
If you do travel to the US, you will be required to get tested for Covid-19 and to comply with the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) self-quarantining guidelines. From 26 January all air passengers travelling to the US from a foreign country must get tested no more than three days before their departure.
You will be required to provide proof of a negative test result, or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19 before boarding your flight. More detail can be found on the CDC website. Please note, these testing requirements do not supersede the travel ban restrictions mentioned above.
Deciding if you should apply for Visas for this summer
The next update comes with a ‘health warning’ – given USCIS will not provide a refund for visas paid for and they won’t reissue unless you pay again, is now the time to be shelling out for expensive US work visas when no one really knows yet what the landscape will look like in 3-4 months’ time?
According to the US top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci – assuming a successful vaccination program, autumn opening for performing arts venues is predicted for “sometime in the fall of 2021”, he told a conference of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals.
This is great news but predicated on a) a vaccine program being successful and b) venues being able to open at full capacity. Furthermore, we are told that USCIS are anticipating a summer surge of visa applications and therefore a significant 'slowdown' in petition processing times.
Therefore, if gigs can start again in the Autumn of 2021, visa applications should begin around March or April. This is just around the corner and there is no small amount of nervousness out there as to the reality of what might actually happen.
So, before you embark on this process you should ask yourself two questions.
- Are you working with a qualified US presenter or agent who is staying responsibly appraised of the progress in the US? And,
- Who is taking the financial risk?
Here are three examples that might help you in making that decision.
- If April comes and a Festival in the US announces it’s going ahead in October and the festival is picking up the visa costs, then why not?
- If an emerging indie band who has a well-meaning fan/agent with a potentially influential set of contacts who reckons they can get you some shows in September, but you will need to get the visas – then you might want to think twice about that.
- If you have some shows lined up in August but have a cast iron reassurance that should those shows be moved to say January, then acquiring a 3yr O-1 visa which starts in August could be a good investment. It means you will avoid the increased Premium Processing fees. You may lose a few months at the start of the visa, but you have enough left on it should the tour get bumped back.
According to my US colleagues, outdoor venues are likely to open before indoor ones, small venues may open before large ones and seated ones open before standing ones. And, they have no real idea whether the US Govt can realise their aspirational goal and deliver an effective fast track vaccination program.
And finally, be aware that if you do leave it too late to apply and have to opt for Premium Processing the fees increased from $1440 to $2500 per petition.
Thanks again to Matthew Covey and Liz Moller at Tamizdat and the Artist Mobility Forum for supplying this information.