Visa and Access Requirements

Overview of Visa and Access Requirements to Attend Folk Alliance International

Do I Need a Visa to Perform at FAI?

As a rule, foreign artists performing in the U.S. must secure an employment visa (usually a P or O visa) prior to entering the U.S. This is required regardless of how long you’ll be in the U.S., how much you’re getting paid, or even if you are performing for no pay… you still need a work visa. However, there are a few very narrow exceptions to this rule, and Folk Alliance is one. Because FAI is principally an industry-facing event, it is considered a “bona fide industry event,” so most consular and border officials will understand that ESTA or a B-1 visa is sufficient if you are entering the U.S. only to perform at FAI. However, if you are doing any other performances in the U.S. while you’re here, you probably need a P or O visa. If you have any questions, contact tamzidat.org/avail for pro bono legal assistance.

I am From an “ESTA” Country, so I Don’t Need a Visa to Perform at FAI, Right?

That depends…If the only performances you’ll do in the U.S. are official FAI showcases: The U.S. government has confirmed that if an artist is coming to the U.S., and the only performances they will do are official FAI music showcases, then a  B-1 visa is the appropriate visa classification1. Furthermore, if an artist is eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program and the artist is only performing at official FAI showcases, ESTA is also sufficient. In the past, FAI and many international arts organizations have recommended that if an artist has a choice between a B-1 visa and ESTA, they should choose the B-1 because it has the potential to help the artist avoid logistical problems associated with ESTA. However, given ongoing issues at many U.S. embassies and consulates around the world related to COVID-19 and other issues, obtaining a B-1 visa may not be possible in time for FAI, in which case artists should feel reasonably confident traveling to FAI on ESTA, provided you carry the official FAI invitation, and (again) you are ONLY performing official FAI showcases. 

I Am Not From an “ESTA” Country. What Visa do I Need?

  1. If you are not from a “visa waiver” country, you’ll need to seek a B1 visa through a US consulate, ideally a month or two before you travel.

I Am a Canadian. Do I Need a Visa to Perform at FAI?

      Canadians who are not doing any other professional performances (paid or not) while in the U.S. should not have a problem clearing immigration with their FAI invitation letter. As part of standard admission to the U.S. on business (not work), a B1 stamp will be added to your passport by the officer

What Is the Visa Waiver Program, and What Is Esta?

The Visa Waiver program is a treaty between the US and 38 countries that normally allows those countries’ citizens to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of up to 90 days. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and they must have registered online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel. Due to increased scrutiny regarding showcase performances, it is advised that even if you are eligible to travel to the US on ESTA, showcasing artists should consider securing a B class visa in advance from a US Embassy. For more information about the Visas Waiver program, please see this link.

I Was Denied a Visa. May I Use ESTA?

A recent visa refusal for any reason will likely 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.

I’m Confused. Where Can I Get Free Help?

  • www.artistsfromabroad.org is the authoritative source for information about U.S. artist’s visas.
  • 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. TamizdatAVAIL is a free hotline that provides performing arts professionals with urgent legal assistance regarding U.S. visa issues. It is staffed by legal professionals. Their team of volunteer lawyers provides free advice to performing arts professionals who are experiencing a problem in a subsequent stage of the visa process. TamizdatAVAIL can be reached at 718-541-3641 or by email avail@tamizdat.org.