This information is constantly changing. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, please visit www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-permits
Music may (in theory) know no borders, but Canadian musicians traveling to perform in the U.S. and U.S. musicians going the other way can get held up by red tape. Local 1000 helps its members through the border-crossing maze for tours and single engagements. Here are the basics.
Traveling to the U.S. from Canada
There are several types of visas that will allow Canadian musicians to work in the United States, but the most common is the P2 visa which is processed by the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) office (the CFM is the Canadian “wing” of the American Federation of Musicians). All Canadian Local 1000 members have access to these visas. You may include multiple gigs on one application as long as they are within 45 days of each other (or you can prove ongoing professional activity in the United States). The visa may be valid for up to one year from the first engagement, as long as you have your contracts in place.
Currently this application can be processed within about 75 days, but please check with CFM office for the latest information. There is also an “expedited approval process”, but it costs an additional $1,225 and can still take up to 25 days to process.
U.S. permit fees
Payable to Department of Homeland Security. For gigs within 50 miles of the border, special exemptions may apply. Ask your employer to check with USCIS.
- P & O petitions: $460 USD
- Premium processing fee: $1225 USD
AFM P2 administration fee
Payable to AFM Canada.
- The fee is $120 CDN for one musician/technician or the first musician/technician, PLUS $25 per additional musician/technician. Example: A 4-piece band pays $195 for their P2 administration fee, and if this band has 3 techs, an additional $170 is payable to cover the administration fee for their P2-S. In this example, the total administration fee is $365
How to apply
Start by visiting www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-permits and downloading the appropriate application. The form requires the following information and when completed should be returned with the indicated materials to the CFM office:
- Full name, address, citizenship, date and place of birth of everyone on the application
- Proof of AFM membership
- Date and first point of entry into the U.S., and date of return to Canada
- Completed application form
- Copies of signed contracts with U.S. employers
- Money order or banker’s draft, payable to U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, for $460 US
- If you have a U.S. social security number or U.S. tax i.d. number or a “central withholding agreement” it is helpful to include that.
- Cheque for $100 (or more, depending on number of people on the application) CAD, payable to AFM Canada
Your documents will be sent to the point of entry you specify. That is the only place you will be able to cross the border.
On the back of the application form, the AFM Canadian office asks you to sign a waiver to release them from liability in the case of unavoidable delays in processing. There are no guarantees in immigration applications, but experienced border-crossers will tell you that problems are rare, providing you get your application in early enough.
Once approved, you will receive a P-2 petition by mail to present at the border. This is not a visa and does not guarantee entry. However, unless you have previously been denied entry, have a criminal record, or have been inordinately rude to a U.S. immigration officer, the petition process is usually a formality. Some border crossings charge a processing fee of $6 US per person, so be sure to have U.S. funds with you for this purpose.
Always carry your passport, and remember to hand in your exit stub to Immigration Canada when you leave the U.S. at the expiration of your visa.
Note: This information is for guidance only. Always check with the AFM Canadian office before you begin the application process.
Traveling to Canada from the U.S.
Musicians wishing to work in Canada may do so under recently changed rules. If you are working in a venue with non-profit status, ie: a festival, folk club or house concert, etc. you can cross the border with your a) signed contracts or b) a “Letter of Cultural Exchange” from the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM). If your work includes for-profit venues such as bars and restaurants or if you will be doing teaching and/or instruction of any kind, you will need a different kind of Visa for that work.
To cross with just signed contracts you will need to have all of your signed contracts and agreements along with your passport to present to the Canadian border official.
If you will be performing in non-profit venues you can obtain a “Letter of Cultural Exchange” from the CFM. The letter costs $40 for AFM members and $150 for non-AFM members, prices are subject to change. For more information please visit this link: “Canadian Work Permits for Musicians from U.S. and Abroad Performing in Canada”.
Musicians from the United States and abroad requiring “union concurrence” to perform in Canada should contact Lily Kemeredin: firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-391-5161 (toll free: 1 800 463-6333) ext. 221
Also, you have probably heard by now that the Canadian government has increased the fees that International musicians pay to perform legally in Canada. These fee increases do not affect you as AFM members in good standing. These are the fees that musicians are pay to obtain the required paperwork to perform legally in Canada. The important thing to know is that as a union musicians, you are exempt from the fee increases. Another good reason to be a Local 1000 member.
The Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) has issued a press release regarding these changes. You can download or view it here.
Canadian contact information
Send applications to:
PLEASE NOTE NEW ADDRESS:
Canadian Federation of Musicians
150 Ferrand Dr. Suite 202
Toronto, Ontario M3C 3E5
AFM Canada office : Liana White 1 (800) 463 6333 x232
Phone: 416-391-5161 or 1-800-INFO-FED (Canada only) / Fax: 416-391-5165
Canadian musicians traveling to U.S.: Liana White, email@example.com
U.S. musicians traveling to Canada: Susan Whitfield, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a non-Canadian or US residents applying for a visa, download the PDF document Obtaining an AFM consultation letter to learn more.
Artistsfromabroad.com is without a doubt the best source of up-to-date visa and tax information around, especially if you are planning to come to the U.S. as a “culturally unique” performer and looking to obtain a P3 permit.