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 travelling to Canada to perform 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 there is not too large a time gap between your gigs in the U.S. (consult the CFM website for details), 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.
Processing times, fees, and rules for P2 visa applications change on a regular basis, so please visit the CFM website for the latest information about processing times, fees, and other details.
How to apply
Visit www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-permits and download the P2 application forms and guidelines. The forms require 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 the application fee
- 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 the processing fee, payable to The Canadian Federation of Musicians
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 CFM 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 the CFM will make sure all the necessary documents are in order and the application is submitted on your behalf.
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. The most up-to-date and correct information will always be on the CFM website.
Traveling to Canada from the U.S.
U.S. musicians may work in Canada for up to two weeks under certain conditions. 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 and/or b) a “Letter of Cultural Exchange” from the CFM.
If you will be in Canada for longer than two weeks, there are additional requirements.
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 type of visa.
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.
For more information, please visit the CFM website.