P2 Work Permits For Musicians – Legal Requirements for Canadians Performing in the U.S.

P2 Visa Permits For Musicians

P2 Work Permits For Musicians – Introduction

P2 Work Permits for Performers; what are they, who needs one, and what are the steps to apply.  A common way for Canadian musicians to legally perform in the United States is to obtain a P2 work permit with the assistance of the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM).

The process is not quick.

The process is not inexpensive.

However, the process can be made easier if you plan ahead.

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Top Considerations

Here are four key considerations if you plan on performing in the United States:

  1. Decide who the musicians and support crew are that will be travelling with you.
  2. Ensure each person travelling with you has a passport that will remain valid for the duration of time spent abroad. Passports issued after July 1, 2013 can be valid for 10 years, so encourage anyone whose passport is expiring soon to renew it and choose the 10-year option.
  3. Ensure each musician’s CFM union membership dues are paid up for the duration of the tour. If you are travelling with a musician who is not a CFM member, encourage them join if they want to be on tour with you. Connect with the CFM locals where all musicians are based to plan for each musician to have their union membership be paid up for the entire tour, or to have the person become a union member for the first time. Perhaps you have a side player travelling with you who lives in Ottawa and is not a CFM member. That person will need to join Local 180. A person living in Winnipeg, would need to join Music Professionals of Manitoba – Local 190. The process to join is simple: complete the standard CFM membership application and submit the application and payment to your local union. To find your local union, visit CFM Musicians
  4. Ensure you have prepared a letter for each support crew explaining why that person is on your tour. To plan ahead, get a resumé from each support crew to help you prepare your letter. To obtain a P2 you are required to provide an itinerary of confirmed performances and/or signed contracts for bookings in the United States. This can be a daunting task. An agent can assist, but you may also need to work with your agent to ensure you have enough shows on a recurring basis in order to extend your P2 visa for its maximum length, which is one year.

P2 Work Permits – Costs

What does it cost? The base cost for processing a P2 application is $460 USD (yes, that’s American Dollars). For expedited processing, it’s an extra $2,500 USD. If you are bringing along support crew, it is an additional $460 USD plus the additional $2,500 USD for expedited service collectively for the support crew. The costs are the same regardless of whether your tour is one year or one day. Thus, a longer tour provides more value for your money.

In addition, there are union fees for processing of the application. Thankfully, these fees are not nearly as significant as the amounts paid to the Department of Homeland Security (and they are in Canadian Dollars too!).

P2 Work Permits – Application Considerations

Due to the P2 work permit being founded on a Reciprocal Exchange Program for artists, the easiest way to facilitate the requirement of reciprocity is to apply through the CFM who will complete the P2 application in tandem with their counterpart in the US, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). As well, the CFM has their own tailored P2 Application form(s) which you can use instead of the standard (and lengthy) Form I-129, that they will submit to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services on your behalf.

Overall, the best advice we can give is to understand the process and plan ahead.

The general information provided by the CFM is available at CMF Musicians Work Permits.

Also, we can help walk you through the process, to ensure you have your valid US work visa in hand as you cross over the border, and hopefully, make music history.


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Edwards Creative Law is Canada’s Entertainment Law Boutique™, providing legal services to Canadians, and international clients who partner with Canadians, in the Music, Film & Television, Animation, Interactive Digital Media, Game, Publishing and Software industries. For more information and additional blogs, please visit www.edwardslaw.ca

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