After stories surfaced at this year’s SXSW about UK artists being turned away from America – and with Brexit now imminent – visa issues have crept to the top of artists’ touring agendas.
With that in mind, we heard from immigration expert Andy Corrigan, founder of artist advisory service Viva La Visa, at The Great Escape, to learn how British acts can avoid the five most common visa mistakes…
Don’t leave it too late when applying for your visa
The most common problem we come across is artists not allowing enough time for the visa application process. Even if you’ve done your research and estimated how long it should take based on online recommendations, you need to factor in the likelihood of delays. Sometimes there are complications, or processing is slow, and the application takes longer.
Also, people underestimate the amount of time it takes to get all the documentation ready for a visa application, especially if you are a band with a crew. That’s a lot of information you’re going to have to gather.
Don’t apply for the wrong visa
Things have changed in the US recently, so this point is really all about that. There used to be an accepted protocol at the SXSW whereby UK acts performing at official showcases didn’t need a work visa. They could travel under an ESTA or visitor’s visa. These methods had worked for a long time, but this year they didn’t – some people’s ESTAs were revoked mid-flight or as soon as they arrived on US soil. So, to be on the safe side, always get a work visa if you intend to perform in America.
Other territories also have different categories of visa including China. The norm is to travel there on a business visa rather than work visa because immigration norms and rules are still in state of flux. But you still have to know what the visa is you’re travelling under, and what it entitles you to do, in case you’re questioned.
In India, the situation is different. If you apply for what’s classed as a media visa, it will get held up for an extra two weeks. So often UK artists travel on business visas.
Don’t lie on the form!
Be as open and straight forward as you possibly can be when applying for a visa. In American immigration law, if you are ineligible to enter the country for whatever reason, it can often be a grey area. However, misrepresentation is a very clear cut offence. If you misrepresent on any visa application, you’re instantly inadmissible. It’s a visa no-no, even though it happens a lot when artists enter on an ESTA [under which they’re not allowed to perform] and then play public shows.
Don’t forget the rules can change
Rules change, and so do their interpretations. For example, in Canada over the last few years, if you were a UK passport holder, you didn’t need a work permit. However, they’ve reintroduced an ESTA-type electronic admission visa system for people flying into the country. Always double check these things when planning your trip.
Don’t forget to budget for visa costs
Make sure you look online or speak to a visa specialist so you can accurately cost your immigration needs. Ideally you should do this well before you go on tour. Rush jobs end up costing you more, once you factor in couriers and such things. It’s much better to get on the case early. American work visas are always going to be expensive for a new band – allow three or four thousand pounds at least. It’s worth noting that immigration costs are covered in some concert deals you receive from promoters, particularly in places like South Korea, so it’s always worth checking.