Congratulations -- you're now managing a touring band, and they're ready to go international with their rock'n'roll show. This means that you need to start working out artist and staff visas, or their tour will be very short lived. In this post, we're going to talk about all the specific details you need to know about getting these visas, and some potential pitfalls to avoid.
Artist Visas: The Basics
Even though the process of getting a visa to work abroad can be a confusing one, it certainly doesn't have to be. The following, then, is a list of things to keep in mind about the basics of getting artist visas.
- Certain countries have very specific travel requirements. It's within your best interests, then, to periodically check the website for the US Department of State to stay abreast of all of the recent developments of the country you're looking to perform in. For example, right now there are travel advisories in place for such countries as Laos, Haiti, Burundi, and Iran, and there's a worldwide caution thanks to the increased terrorist threats. To that end, then, it's in your best interests to follow the letter of the law precisely when it comes to obtaining and maintaining a work visa, lest you (and your band) be flagged and unable to travel.
- Did you know that you can fill out the DS-160 form (for non-immigrant visas) online? All you have to do is visit this link!
- Each country has their own visa requirements -- before you do anything else, make sure that you check with the Department of State in order to see what each country's requirements are. The last thing you want, or need, is to be abroad without access to the US Embassy and having all of your rights denied because you didn't adhere to the law.
The Do's and Don't's of Getting a Musician's Visa
- DO make sure that you give yourself a few months of advanced time before you try to tour in a country. For example, let's say you'd like to do a tour in France -- try to schedule it out at least 2-3 months in advance so you can sort your visas out and promote it accordingly.
- DON'T forget to let your financial institution know that you're traveling abroad -- many banks have fraud alerts placed on your debit card, and will mark your foreign activity as suspicious if you don't let them know that you'll be traveling.
- DON'T forget to apply for a visa if you're touring Canada, as well. One of the most common mistakes musicians make is forgetting to apply for a visa to Canada, because of the flexibility that exists between the United States and Canada. But nothing will get you further in line than having to be sent back to the United States, ignobly, because you forgot to get the paperwork in order before you left.
- DO stay in touch with the local promoter of the show. If s/he is any good, s/he'll already be well aware of the laws of his/her country, and will be able to direct you to the right place in order to get the necessary permits for you to perform. In addition, if you belong to a Musician's Union, DO reach out to them for any additional help you may need.
- DON'T hesitate to have backup staff in the event someone on your team is denied a visa for whatever the reason. Many touring musicians and their crew have found their visas delayed, or denied, because of something as small as a minor drug possession conviction when they were younger -- don't get discouraged about this; just make sure that you have backup staff that will be able to travel with the musicians if the situation should arise.