It’s no secret that things have gotten significantly harder for touring bands in recent years. The perfect storm of a crippling pandemic, increased inflation, the general unavailability of transportation, and other factors have resulted in bands either deciding not to travel abroad for shows or to cancel entire tours that had already been planned.
Now, a proposed visa increase from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would spike the cost to obtain certain working visas from just a few hundred dollars to well over $1,600, if passed. It’s a move that has many bands wondering how they’ll end up touring the U.S. if it becomes official.
During a recent interview with Chaoszine, Municipal Waste/Iron Reagan/Heaven’s Gate frontman Tony Foresta lambasted the proposal, calling it an unfair financial hit for already struggling artists.
“It’s scary. It’s still scary. We don’t know if we’re gonna come home with money or whatever. I mean, if it covers itself and we’re out here or whatever, we’ll do this and that’s great. We’ve always been kind of a frugal band. We cut corners as much as we can, but it’s harder and harder as the years go on to tour over here.
“It sucks for bands to tour America, too. They’re hitting bands with visas so hard now. It’s bullshit. It’s fucking lame, man. I don’t understand. It’s like, you’re punishing poor people. We don’t fucking make a lot of money. So it sucks that there’s so many… the costs just keep going up and it’s just harder and harder. But we’re gonna keep doing it until the wheels fall off.”
In the DHS’ written proposal, both the O visa and the P visa would be affected. The O visa is for longer-term work within the U.S., while the P visa is for more temporary work visits. If approved, the former’s costs would go from $460 to $1,655, while the latter visa option would go from $460 to $1,615, marking a 260% and 251% increase, respectively.
DHS officials say the increases are necessary to handle a growing demand for the visas coupled with the fact that they’re understaffed in the Citizenship and Immigration department. The increases also include a $600 fee to help fund the country’s asylum program.
The DHS is suggesting that each visa be limited to just 25 people each. Any more than that and you’re going to have to fill out and pay for a second application. While this may sound reasonable to some, it’s important to note that many of today’s legacy bands employ way more than 25 people.
It’s important to note that this affects every band looking to make their way stateside, including those from Canada and Mexico. Not only that, but the DHS expects longer processing times for visas moving forward, though they’ll happily charge you an additional $2,500 to get premium processing, which currently takes 15 calendar days.
This isn’t the first time the DHS has tried to increase the prices associated with these visas. Back in 2020, they wanted to raise fees by 50%, but that never happened. The last time artist visa fees increased was back in 2016.
So yeah. Foresta’s right on the money. This is “fucking lame” and “bullshit,” especially if it ends up being that only massive legacy acts are the ones that can afford to make the trip over to the states.