scrap p2 visa canadian musicians american border

Canadian musicians are petitioning to scrap the expensive US touring visa

For many Canadian bands, crossing the border becomes a financial disaster.

- Jul 5, 2016

Touring in Canada is difficult. There are serious, gas-burning, band-exploding kilometres between even mid-size markets. And though touring below the border, where you can hit three cities of 500,000+ on a weekend sounds like the obvious answer, our neighbours to the south aren't too neighbourly when it comes to Canadian musicians working in their clubs.

By some calculations, a Canadian band that consists of five members, a tour manager and a merchandise manager will spend about $820 CAD per individual to cross the American border on tour. And it can get worse. Expedited processing, for example, for visa applications received fewer than 75 days in advance will cost an additional $1,225 USD. These upfront costs are prohibitive for most bands, especially considering the DIY venue's paltry $100 payout waiting on the other side. But a new change.org petition is asking the U.S. House of Representatives to be a better neighbour and scrap the expensive American P2 Visa for touring bands.

Nobody is stealing jobs; they're creating them.

Campaign founder Omar Khatib explains that, to play music across the border, bands must apply for a P2 Visa through the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, which will petition Homeland Security for a visa on your behalf. The fee to apply for a P2 is $325 USD, plus an additional fee of $100 CAD for administration costs, and an extra $20 CAD per musician in the group. Every additional crew member — your pal who watches the merch table, say — adds another $100 CAD. "Add the 30% tax the US border adds to the GROSS income of the Canadian group," Khatib writes on the campaign page, "and touring becomes a financial disaster."

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The prohibitive visa fees represent a confusing measure of American protectionism in the NAFTA era, especially when, two years ago, Canada lifted the fees it would charge American touring musicians entering its border and rewrote its regulations regarding work permits for visiting cultural workers. That shift, too, was inspired by a petition.

Khatib and the 2600 or so who've signed by press time — which includes Robyn Phillips of Vallens, Alex Calder, Skye Sweetnam, and Teenanger's Steve Sidoli, to name a few — are asking for some reciprocity. Canadian bands working south of the border enable cash flow in American music markets, he writes, they give American bands more opportunities to play shows and promote themselves, they support and buy American products from American businesses, they pay American taxes for the duration of the tour, and moreover, they build a great relationship between the music communities in both countries. Nobody is stealing jobs; they're creating them.

You can sign the petition here.

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