On your way to the United States for your first tour?
Have you checked the expiry date of your health insurance card? Thought of your visas? The insurance for your instruments? U.S. tax authorities?
Here are 5 things to do before leaving on an American tour! (To-do list at the end.)
YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE CARD
First, know that your travel insurance plan will generally only cover you if you are eligible for provincial health insurance. In Quebec, your health insurance card may expire if you are not present in the province for a minimum of 183 days of the year (from January to December).
For the band
Generally speaking, and always subject to certain exceptions (such as unpaid showcases, unpaid competitions, etc.), the work permit (“visa”) you need to tour the United States is the P-2. This permit is valid for a maximum of one (1) year (with the possibility extending it) and is valid for the entire band.
Be sure to validate whether you fall in another category, there are many other types of visas. That said, the P-2 is the most simple and commonly used permit for a band wishing to embark on a two-week tour on the American West Coast.
The simplest way to obtain a P-2 is to become a member of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM), then complete and submit to them your P-2 application forms.
The AFM will then forward your application to the United States Immigration Service (USCIS) for pre-approval.
N.B: Be sure to indicate ALL the shows you are contracted for, as the visa will only be valid for those indicated in the application. In addition, if your technical crew or other support staff is accompanying you, keep in mind that you will need to submit your application with theirs (P2-S visas).
How much time does it take to receive your visa? In addition to the time it takes to become an AFM member, it can take up to 60 days for USCIS to process the application. For emergency treatments (less than 30 days), you can opt for the Premium Treatment… for an additional $1,410 USD!
How much does it cost? As of today (June 18, 2019 – by the time you read this, the numbers may have changed) the price for standard processing is $460 USD paid to the Department of Homeland Security + a management fee of $120 CDN paid to the AFM + $25 CDN per musician and supporting crew member.
YOUR TOURING INSURANCE
Many insurance companies offer packages specially meant for touring artists. They usually include property insurance – in case of damage or theft of instruments or equipment, – and general liability – for damage caused to a third party or their property for which you could be held responsible (i.e. drunkenly redecorating a room or an altercation with a fan on stage).
Do some window-shopping first to pick the right insurance for you. Some packages exclude property damage that occurred in transit. Others include additional coverages, such as an insurance in case of cancellation or postponement of the event. The AFM, among others, offers liability, musical instrument and equipment insurances as well as health and travel insurances.
** We always recommend that you seek the advice of tax specialists in this area. The following is only intended as guidelines help you in your preparation and research!
It is possible that your employer or the U.S. producer will require you to withhold up to 30% of your income to cover U.S. taxes! If this happens, ask for (and keep) any official notice or receipt. If you earn $15,000 USD or less (individually) on tour, you will probably be eligible for a full refund.
There also exist waivers that can help you avoid the withholding tax altogether, such as the withholding agreement – this particular request must be submitted at least 45 days prior to the first date of the tour.
In short, by working in the U.S., you are subjecting yourself to it its laws. Stay informed to avoid any surprises!
SAVE TIME AT THE BORDER
The ATA Carnet is a document that allows touring musicians to avoid paying fees by pre-registering their equipment and instruments. You can apply online at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
- Become an AFM member
- Confirm ALL your show dates
- Make sure your absence from Quebec does not make you ineligible for Quebec health insurance;
- At least 3 months before leaving on tour, submit your work permit forms to the AFM;
- Obtain an ATA Carnet for your instruments and equipment;
- Obtain (at the very least) insurance for property damage and general liability;
- Check the applicable tax procedures: consult a tax specialist!
** Special thanks to Emily Alberton for all her help in researching and writing this article! **
:: Translated by Emily Alberton / Photo by Ilse Orsel