At least five musicians have had their permission to travel to the United States to perform at SXSW unexpectedly revoked.
The Musicians’ Union as reacted to this news, saying that it had reassurances that the international showcase festival falls into an exemption, which allows artists invited to perform entry to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme (ESTA).
While many musicians have been allowed into the US to perform, the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the Visa Waiver Programme, has revoked the ESTAs of five UK musicians, leaving them no time to arrange an alternative Visa.
“None of them have received any reasoning from the US authorities as to why this revocation has come about. This renders the advice - that performing under an ESTA for an official showcase is acceptable - as unreliable,” said the MU in a statement.
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“It remains unclear as to whether this is specific to SXSW, or part of a much wider strategic change; the MU is working with partners in the UK and US to uncover the true situation. That said, it would appear that O, P and B Visas with their associated costs and time constraints would appear to be the only safe option for artists performing in the US, whether for an official showcase or not.”
Dave Webster, MU National Organiser for Live Performance, and Chair of the Music Industry Visa Task Force, commented: "We have escalated this to the highest level in the UK to try to ascertain what is going on. It is appalling that these artists have been denied the opportunity to showcase at SXSW. The US Embassy in London has provided no explanation. A letter from Nigel Adams MP and Kerry McCarthy MP requesting an urgent meeting with the US officials has been sent.
"Since the formation of the Music Industry Visa Task Force in 2015 some progress on these issues has been made, however this latest development represents a huge setback."
Horace Trubridge, MU Assistant General Secretary, added: “The amount of public funding that has gone into getting our UK artists to perform at SXSW this year will have been wasted. It is outrageous that these ESTAs have been revoked and more outrageous that the musicians affected have not been told why.”