US travel visa filter - Canadian musicians travelling and performing in the United States, but not getting paid. Do we still require a visa?
I will be travelling in the United States with my friend's band for 11 days in March. In total there will be 5 people (3 musicians and 2 drivers/friends), they'll be playing in New York City and Austin, and we're coming from Toronto.
First we need to determine if a work visa is required for any/all of us to cross the border.
-These are non-paying gigs. We may be able to get a letter from the promoter to confirm this. This part is not a lie to try to get around the paper work, small band, small venues, no payment, maybe a few drink tickets.
-We will have a merch table, would this be relevant?
-If we were
being paid we'd fall under the P-2
temporary worker visa. Does unpaid performance still count as work?
Having poured over all the government websites Canadians do not need to file for a visa except for specific exceptions that do not apply to us. (1
According to this page
In addition to a valid passport, Canadian citizens may require additional documentation to travel to the United States. If a Canadian plans to attend school or work in the United States, they are required to have the specific required documents for the appropriate visa category. For example...temporary workers require an I-797 from their perspective employer. Exchange visitors require a DS-2019 from the sponsoring organization. These forms (the I-20, I-797, DS-2019, etc.) must be presented at the port of entry to the United States.
Assuming the border agent does not believe that we are not being paid for the US gigs then we need either to have the DS-2019 form completed with a sponsoring agency. Everything seems to point to the AFM
for sponsorship between Canada and the US. This option has the downside of being very expensive and time consuming. Since we're not making any money, paying for an expensive visa application isn't that attractive.
If all else fails what are the odds we can just say we're visiting friends in NYC? We are actually crashing at a friends place while in NYC. What are the odds we'll be turned away for insufficient documentation if we pull up in a minivan loaded with 3 guitar cases, a drum set, and 5 young men?
TL;DR: Band is not being paid to perform, does this still fall under the temporary worker visa? If not will we still be turned away at the border, appearing just to have lied about not being paid?