Wednesday, February 20, 2008

International SXSW Bands Hustle to Obtain Immigration Status

SXSW announced its full music lineup almost two weeks ago - opening the door for many international bands and artists to play their first American show. But before they take the stage, most artists will first need to clear their immigration status with the U.S. government.

Generally, international musicians performing at SXSW are required to apply for a P visa. The P visa allows a person who performs with or is an integral or essential part of an entertainment group to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of performing in an event or performance. The person must be recognized internationally as being outstanding in his or her discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time, and must have a sustained and substantial relationship with the group over a period of at least one year. In some cases, the international recognition and/or one-year prior relationship requirement may be waived. Essential support personnel may accompany the performer or entertainer if they have the appropriate qualifications to perform the services needed. Artists and music executives who only plan to attend the convention (for business or pleasure) generally do not need a P visa provided they will not be earning money or working with a performing artist playing in the U.S. Other immigration and tourist visa requirements would still apply.

With the festival only three weeks away, musicians who have procrastinated may find themselves in the position that Rodrigo Sanchez of Rodrigo y Gabriela found himself in last year. Last year, Rodrigo was denied a visa renewal and forced to miss SXSW purportedly because he shared the name of a man with a criminal record.

Some foreign acts visiting the United States for reasons other than SXSW have found securing visas to be a more difficult process than expected. Artists like Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen have each had work visas denied for various reasons.

Homeland Security Gives Rodrigo y Gabriela the SXSW Blues [Spinner]
Winehouse gets visa, too late for awards [MSN]
Lily Allen's U.S. Visa Revoked [People]


UPDATE: Capitol K bows out of SXSW 2008 due to U.S. visa issues.

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