Artists panic as US triples visa fees

Artists panic as US triples visa fees


norman lebrecht

January 26, 2023

This information has been received from GG Arts Law firm:

United Statues Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by and through the auspices of their reptilian overlords, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has proposed the following:

The standard processing fee for O-1 and O-2 petitions would increase for $460 to $1655 per petition.
The standard processing fee for P petitions would increase from $460 to $1615 per petition.
O-2, P-1, and P-1S petitions would be limited to 25 people per petition.
The Premium Processing Fee would remain at $2500 per petition, but the petition would be processed in 15 business days as opposed to the current policy of 15 calendar days.

So, for example:

If a major orchestra or ensemble with 80 members wanted to tour the U.S., it would need to file 4 petitions at a total cost of $6460 in USCIS filing fees (4 petitions x $1615). If they needed support staff (managers, stage crew, etc.) that would require an additional petition at a cost of an additional $1615. If premium processing were required, that would cost an additional $12,500 (5 petitions x $2500).

If a single artist wanted to enter with an accompanist, band, company members, or crew, that would require O-1 and O-2 petitions at a cost of $3310 (2 petitions x $1655).


And you thought Brexit was the only disaster?




  • Hayne says:

    Cross the border illegally from the South.
    Problem solved.

  • Sad! says:

    Thanks Biden!

  • Sam's Hot Car Lot says:

    It’s worth quoting this line from GG Arts Law’s blog post on this issue []:

    USCIS continues to display less that [sic] a fart from a flea on the freckle on a demented rat’s ass about the arts and entertainment sector.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    You people wanted a Biden administration, and then you complain when you get Biden administration policies. Congrats. You’ve played yourselves. [Cue the Slipped Disc keyboard warrior who will inevitably blame tRump]

  • GCMP says:

    I am not sure how seriously one should take an entity that says
    “through the auspices of their reptilian overlords . . . ” in a business context.

  • nun says:

    Disaster for whom?

    They’re taking away American jobs. If the Berlin Phil didn’t suck up all the air at Carnegie Hall for 2 weeks every year, 2 American orchestras could be debuting in NY every year, debuting American composers, etc

    The visa fees are not high enough, they ought to be 25% of proceeds.

    • Potter Herald says:

      There is a much easier way to make “america great again” and avoid these stupid european orchestras. You have to invade, for instance, Mexico (aka “special war operation”) and no one afterwards will come to US. Good idea? Or does it work only one (russian) way?

    • Simpson says:

      And the same for scientists and engineers! We don’t need the best and the brightest, keep them out. The US should have kept Rachmaninoff out and never let him tour in the US. Even now he and his wife take away valuable American cemetery land!

    • CastaDiva says:

      Jingoistic way of thinking. Are we to be deprived of hearing the world’s great orchestras/singers? Yes, the US also has them, but why should we be limited in our access to the world’s fine artistes?

    • NYMike says:

      The BPO was here for half a week during which they played 3 concerts – two, a Mahler 7th repeat. Carnegie Hall has open dates for US orchestras who want to come here. Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, and the MET among others appear regularly @ Carnegie every year. NY audiences have an appetite for foreign orchestras and home-grown bands.

    • Tamino says:

      Thanks for the sarcasm, nun!
      Also you should stop buying anything made in China and just starve. But as a proud Ummmericaaan!!!

    • Lachera says:

      Yes, of course. But remember that in international matters the law is reciprocity. US tax foreign musicians, it will be only fair if everybody begins to tax US musicians.

    • James says:

      American musicians and audiences benefit from exposure to the best orchestras and musicians from around the world, just as overseas audiences and musicians benefit from the US orchestras that tour internationally. CH asking both American and international visiting orchestras to include at least one piece by a good contemporary composer would be great and maybe worth a try, but whether audiences would show up is another matter, especially post-covid.

  • Simpson says:

    The public comment period on the proposed rules ends on March 6, 2023. This is the link, , click on the green button “submit a formal comment” to post your comments. One notable feature of the proposed rule is to tack on a charge of $600 – in addition to the fee increases – to each employment-based nonimmigrant petition (including O and P artist visas) to fund the asylum program. It is outrageous for USCIS to propose funding the asylum program in this way. Every performing arts organization in the US should comment and oppose the proposed rules. It is a nightmare for US entertainment stakeholders across the board.

    • Byrwec Ellison says:

      Thank you for posting this link. It’s a nightmare of fine print, but it’s the bottom line on USCIS’ rationale for its proposed changes to rules and processing fees. Anyone who’s serious about wanting to understand the changes has to review this document. The $600 across-the-board fee is a notable change (Table 12 in the Federal Register), which is based on an estimated $426M average annual cost of processing asylum applications.

      As of December, 2021, the UN High Commission on Refugees reported that there were 89M displaced persons and 27M international refugees — and that was before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That and changing climate are the global catastrophes of our time. Applying $600 to all petitions is “fair” by some reckoning. The easiest alternative would be to establish a two-tier fee structure for for-profit businesses and non-profit entities, including arts presenters — and that would be a useful comment to make on the proposed changes.

      The basic processing fee change from $460 to $1,055 for O petitions and $1,015 for P petitions (Table 19 of the Federal Register) is harder to understand from the explanation given. It does say, “…limiting the number of named beneficiaries simplifies and optimizes the adjudication of these petitions, which can lead to reduced average processing times for a petition. Because USCIS completes a background check for each named beneficiary, petitions with more named beneficiaries require more time and resources to adjudicate than petitions with fewer named.” But the reason for fee hike is still obscure and only explained thus: “…the proposed fees include the costs associated with the estimated adjudication hours for each of the new petitions being proposed in this rule.”

      • Simpson says:

        I can’t see how slapping huge fee increases on the business community (for and not for profit) and channeling those toward asylum processing is fair by any stretch of reason. Not all artists or scientists are rich, not all asylum seekers are poor. I do not recall when the USCIS fee increases resulted in better processing times. To the contrary, premium processing of artist and other employment-based visas ($2500 fee) is proposed to become longer (15 business days instead of calendar days), which means that no artist can get a US visa sooner than 6-7 weeks including consular processing which can take who knows how long. If those proposed rules become final, I suppose there will be lawsuits from the business community.

  • PaulD says:

    It’s Trump’s fault!

  • Alviano says:

    The same thing happened when Obama took over from Bush. We all thought the more horrible Bush policies would go away, but they stayed and got worse.

  • Omar Goddknowe says:

    Tax the people who don’t vote, it’s the American way

    • Bill says:

      No, the American way is to tax everyone, even those who make their money elsewhere (unlike nearly every other tax system, US citizens are taxed on income earned elsewhere). Yes, the tax system does cut the suitably-positioned rich some enormous breaks, but almost no one escapes without considerable effort and expense.

      • Music Lover says:

        Best to do some research first. At the very least Canada and Australia tax worldwide income.

        • Anon says:

          Actually, many countries tax worldwide income. The crucial differentiator is residency: the US (and Eritrea!) taxes its citizens and green card holders regardless of whether they are physically present in the US. 35 days in-country per year is enough to pay in full. Less than 35 days in-country and you get a foreign-earned tax credit (currently set at $108,700). Regardless of physical presence, US citizens and green card holders have to file US federal and state tax returns every year. Double tax treaties apply, of course, but the filing itself is very time-consuming and expensive in accountancy fees if your situation is complex (freelance contracts, several currencies, countries etc.). Plus, you may also have to file in your actual country of residence, depending on local rules. The international life of a freelance musician is an absolute nightmare for accounting, especially so for US citizens with a strong presence in the European market and, possibly, a property in Europe.

        • American Living Abroad says:

          You misunderstand the person you are replying to. She/he means the US taxes worldwide income *regardless of where you reside or where you earn income*. This is unique to the US and Eritrea.

          Plenty of nations tax worldwide income for tax residents. But neither Canada, nor Australia, nor any other nation taxes its citizens living and working abroad permanently. Not even China.

          The difference is in citizenship-based taxation vs residency-based taxation.

          Hope that clarifies your confusion and sets you on your own research path.


          An American citizen living abroad, taxed for income not related to the United States while neither working nor living in nor even visiting the United States, because of America’s *unique* citizenship-based tax policy.

  • phf655 says:

    I don’t know anything about American immigration law, but why would the administrators of an orchestra tour need a separate petition from the musicians? And couldn’t a soloist with an accompanist be placed one application as the, for example, Jonas Kaufmann ensemble, consisting of a singer and a pianist? Then, would each member of a string quartet need his or her own application? Also, how do these fees compare those charged by other countries? And for those blaming the Biden administration for this, do they think that a xenophobic Trump administration would have been better?

    • PaulD says:

      The “xenophoic” Trump Administration wanted to make it easier for skilled workers from overseas to come into the United States, unlike the current administration which favors unskilled workers and drug cartel members.

      • Simpson says:

        But it didn’t. Instead it has made the process for skilled workers horrendously more difficult. We are still picking up the debris.

  • R. Deed says:

    This is not xenophobic as some here claim to be, or Trump’s fault. The US immigration Office USCIS has to increase prices to offset the cost of having less agents to deal with these issues, who are long and tedious. I think it’s about the time to start looking inside the US for great shows, orchestras, musicians. There’s for example a great spectrum of American baroque orchestras who are forgotten and neglected. it’s’ about time to let American artists, who are often well regarded beyond the America’s borders to remain here. I’m in favor it! and if this some sort of hindrance to foreign artists- who don’t exactly come to the US for free, they should either pay the new visa fees or stay in their turf.

  • Baffled in Buffalo says:

    The Jan 25th blog entry of the GG Arts Law Firm–which various people here have cited as regards its feisty rhetoric– “reptilian overlords”, etc.–indicates that the last time, before just now, that the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency tried to dramatically raise fees for artists visiting the USA was in 2019. The president then, of course, was ” The Donald”. It seems then that USCIS is persistent in this scheme independent of who the President is. It is distasteful to me to have to emphasize such an obvious point; but when SlippedDisc readers are perpetrating responses like “thank Biden” and “Biden is what you wanted”, and garnering thereby an alarming number of upvotes…well then, I have to go ahead and say the obvious.

  • Jim McGuire says:

    Mr Lebrecht. You definitely you have expressed anti-touring sentiment in your blog. You should be all happy about this!