July 14, 2023

Congressman Maxwell Frost Scores Wins for Traveling Artists, Local Independent Venues Following Action Against USCIS Visa Rate Hike

WASHINGTON DC – Today, Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost (FL-10) released a statement after successfully leading his Democratic colleagues in calling on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to halt a harmful visa rate hike that would have disproportionately adverse effects on new and emerging traveling artists including touring musicians critical to Central Florida’s tourist economy where thousands of entertainers come to work in performance industries like music, tv, movie production, and athletics.

Frost’s letter, sent back in March, called on the agency to halt a rule that would increase the costs of certain visas by over 250 percent. This week, USCIS announced that following outcry from Congressional and industry leaders, the agency was delaying implementation of the hike until March 2024 and is in talks to lower the rate increase altogether.

If put into place, the visa rate hike is poised to have a profoundly negative impact on the arts and entertainment industry in places like Central Florida and across the nation, where local small businesses and music venues will be unable to cover the rising costs associated with such hikes the as emerging artists community faces increased visa costs that will inevitably mean less diversity and opportunity for those looking to break into the industry. 

“USCIS’s decision to delay their proposed rate hikes and go back to the drawing board is the right move to support our nation’s small business community and for the hundreds of thousands of traveling artists who are a critical part of our local economy,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost. “I will continue to work with the Administration to fight for the emerging and traveling artists, independent venues, and small businesses that are an integral part of the fabric of Central Florida.”

“The Recording Academy is grateful that the Administration has listened to the concerns of stakeholders and is delaying the proposed fee increase for artist visas. The increase would significantly impact the ability of foreign artists to perform in the United States and music makers and arts advocates remain united against this harmful proposal,” said Todd Dupler, Acting Chief Advocacy Officer, Recording Academy. “The Academy applauds Rep. Frost for standing with artists across the globe and we will continue to work together towards a consensus path forward that protects the artist community.”

“The USCIS proposal to drastically increase visa fees for international performers poses a severe economic and cultural threat to independent live entertainment in the U.S. It undermines the vital role these performers play on our stages," said Stephen Parker, Executive Director of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). "A 2023 survey of independent venues, festivals, and promoters revealed that international talent accounts for over a quarter of performances at an average venue and can even make up 100 percent of performances for Latin music promoters. While we appreciate the USCIS decision to delay final rulemaking on this issue until March 2024, NIVA will continue working to stop the proposed fee increases. We applaud Congressman Frost for his dedication to preserving the accessibility and affordability of artist visas.”

“The League of American Orchestras is encouraged that the Administration is taking the time needed to consider the objections raised by the arts community to the proposed visa fee increases and harmful related policy changes,” said Simon Woods, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. “Making the U.S. artist visa process more efficient, affordable, and reliable would expand artistic and cultural events for local audiences, support international collaborations with U.S. artists, and boost the substantial economic ripple effect of live arts events in communities across the country. We’re grateful to Rep. Frost for partnering with the creative sector to pursue policy solutions that support international artistry.”

The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) appreciates USCIS’ careful consideration of the consequences and the harm increased fees would have on international artists planning to tour the U.S., on U.S.-based host organizations, and on the live performance economy---just as we are recovering from the pandemic,” says Lisa Richards Toney, APAP’s President and CEO. “Additionally, wait times and uncertainty around visa processing are causing international artists to forgo touring the U.S. entirely, resulting in not only the loss of cultural exchange and all its richness, but also a portion of the billions of dollars generated by the creative economy in local communities across the country.”