Overview of US Visa and Access Requirements to attend Folk Alliance International

If any paid employment is part of your intended time in the US to attend the Folk Alliance International Conference, you must obtain a work visa in advance separate from the process described here.

Canadians who are not working (paid or public performance) in the US can continue to clear immigration with the above letter. As part of standard admission to the US on business (not work) a B1 admission stamp will be added to your passport by the officer reviewing your request for entry (for the purpose of attending a business & industry networking conference).

ESTA – The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 38 participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less when they meet all requirements explained below. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel.

In years past, showcasing artists from the UK were excepted from this advice; recent improvement in the staff of the US consulate in London have resolved this concern, and we now recommend UK artists seek B1 visas for FAI.  

A “non-work” visiting Visa is required for guests coming from non-Visa Waiver Program countries for visitors wishing to travel to the United States to attend an industry conference.

Requirements for using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

You must meet all of the following requirements to travel to the US on the VWP: 


1) Travel purpose must be permitted on a Visitor (B) Visa.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa for stays of 90 days or less for tourism or business. Transiting or traveling through the United States to Canada or Mexico is generally permitted for VWP travelers. The following are examples of activities permitted while in the United States on the VWP:


  • consult with business associates
  • attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
  • attend short-term training (you may not be paid by any source in the United States with the exception of expenses incidental to your stay)
  • negotiate a contract

Travel Purposes Not Permitted on Visa Waiver Program –

  • These are some examples of activities not permitted on the VWP and require visas for travel to the United States:
    study, for credit
  • employment
  • work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, or other information media
  • permanent residence in the United States

2) Each Traveler Must have authorization under ESTA.

In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States for tourism or business. Visit the ESTA webpage on the CBP website for more detailed information, to apply for an ESTA, and to pay the fee. 


3) Travel Must be on an Approved Carrier.

If arriving by air or sea, you must be arriving on an approved air or sea carrier. You must also have a round trip ticket indicating return passage to a country outside the United States.


4) Previous Compliance and No Prior Visa Ineligibilities.

If you have had a U.S. visa before or previously traveled to the United States under the VWP or another status, you must have complied with the conditions of previous admissions to the United States, and you must not have previously been found ineligible for a U.S. visa.


5) Have the Correct Type of Passport.

You must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after your planned departure from the United States (unless exempted by country-specific agreements). For families, each member of your family, including infants and children, must have his/her own passport.

Additional Information

Emergency and Temporary Passports
If you use an emergency or temporary passport to enter the United States on the VWP, the passport must be an electronic passport, or e-Passport.


May I apply for a visa instead of using the VWP?
Travelers who are eligible for the VWP may apply for a visitor (B) visa if they prefer to do so. If you do not meet all of the criteria explained on this document, then you must apply for a visa. If you intend to extend your stay beyond 90 days or change your status once in the United States (for example, you intend to request change of status to student or temporary worker, etc.), then you need to apply for a visa.


I was denied a visa under section 214(b). May I use the VWP?
A recent visa refusal for any reason could result in denial of ESTA authorization, additional review at the port of entry, or denial of admission to the United States. If you are uncertain if you qualify for VWP travel, you may choose to apply for a visa.


Entering the United States
An approved ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program participating country to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States.

An approved ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will place an admission stamp in your passport.

Learn about admissions and entry requirements as well as restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products, and other restricted/prohibited goods by reviewing the CBP website under International Visitors and Clearing CBP. 


Change of Status

Persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program are not permitted to change status in the United States. See Change My Nonimmigrant Status on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

More information can be found at the US Department of State website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visitor.html or at https://www.uscis.gov/.

!! Immediate Visa Help !!

TamizdatAVAIL is a non-profit project that provides both urgent and long term solutions to pervasive U.S. visa problems faced by the international performing arts community. The TamizdatAVAIL Hotline is a free hotline that provides performing arts professionals with urgent legal assistance regarding U.S. visa issues. It is staffed by legal professionals and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Their team of volunteer lawyers provide free advice to performing arts professionals who have already filed an I-129 and are experiencing a problem in a subsequent stage of the visa process.  



DO YOU NEED HELP WITH AN ARTIST VISA PROBLEM? Call TamizdatAVAIL at 718-541-3641 or email avail@tamizdat.org.