Overview of US Visa and Access Requirements to attend Folk Alliance International

Updated December 27, 2017.

 Site updates for the 2019 conference in Montréal are underway. Some information may be outdated, check back soon for updates.

Border Crossing Letters

If you are a non-US citizen attending the conference, and NOT attending as an Official Showcase artist, you can download a generic border crossing letter. This letter simply states that you are attending the Folk Alliance conference in Kansas City.

2018 Official Showcase artists will received an editable border crossing letter via email in on December 20, 2017.

Do You Need a Visa?

If any paid employment is part of your intended time in the US to attend the Folk Alliance International Conference, you must obtain a work visa in advance separate from the process described here.

Canadians who are not working (paid or public performance) in the US can continue to clear immigration with the above border crossing letter. As part of standard admission to the US on business (not work) a B1 admission stamp will be added to your passport by the officer reviewing your request for entry (for the purpose of attending a business & industry networking conference).

ESTA - The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 38 participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less when they meet all requirements explained below. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel.

Due to increased scrutiny regarding showcase performances, it is advised that ESTA travelers consider securing a B class visa in advance from a US Embassy to guarantee access. The one current exception to this recommendation is the London, England Embassy, where it is advised to simply proceed with ESTA status.

Citizens or nationals of the following countries* are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP, unless citizens of one of these countries are also a national of Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan.

Czech Republic
New Zealand
San Marino
South Korea
United Kingdom 

 With respect to all references to “country” or “countries” on this page, it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-8, Section 4(b)(1), provides that “[w]henever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” 22 U.S.C. § 3303(b)(1). Accordingly, all references to “country” or “countries” in the Visa Waiver Program authorizing legislation, Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1187, are read to include Taiwan. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy, under which the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan since 1979.

 To be eligible to travel under the VWP, British citizens must have the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.

A “non-work” visiting Visa is required for guests coming from non-Visa Waiver Program countries for visitors wishing to travel to the United States to attend an industry conference.

Requirements For Using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

You must meet ALL of the following requirements to travel to the US on the VWP:

1) Travel purpose must be permitted on a Visitor (B) Visa

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa for stays of 90 days or less for tourism or business. Transiting or traveling through the United States to Canada or Mexico is generally permitted for VWP travelers. The following are examples of business activities permitted while in the United States on the VWP:

Travel Purposes Not Permitted on Visa Waiver Program

These are some examples of activities not permitted on the VWP and require visas for travel to the United States:

2) Each Traveler Must Have Authorization Under ESTA

In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States for tourism or business. Visit the ESTA webpage on the CBP website for more detailed information, to apply for an ESTA, and to pay the fee.

3) Travel Must be on an Approved Carrier

If arriving by air or sea, you must be arriving on an approved air or sea carrier. You must also have a round trip ticket indicating return passage to a country* outside the United States.

4) Previous Compliance and No Prior Visa Ineligibilities

If you have had a U.S. visa before or previously traveled to the United States under the VWP or another status, you must have complied with the conditions of previous admissions to the United States, and you must not have previously been found ineligible for a U.S. visa.

5) Have the Correct Type of Passport

You must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after your planned departure from the United States (unless exempted by country-specific agreements). For families, each member of your family, including infants and children, must have his/her own passport.

Additional information

Emergency and Temporary Passports

If you use an emergency or temporary passport to enter the United States on the VWP, the passport must be an electronic passport, or e-Passport.

May I apply for a visa instead of using the VWP?

Travelers who are eligible for the VWP may apply for a visitor (B) visa if they prefer to do so. If you do not meet ALL of the criteria explained on this document, then you must apply for a visa. If you intend to extend your stay beyond 90 days or change your status once in the United States (for example, you intend to request change of status to student or temporary worker, etc.), then you need to apply for a visa.

I was denied a visa under section 214(b). May I use the VWP?

A recent visa refusal for any reason could result in denial of ESTA authorization, additional review at the port of entry, or denial of admission to the United States. If you are uncertain if you qualify for VWP travel, you may choose to apply for a visa.

Entering the United States

An approved ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program participating country to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States.

An approved ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will place an admission stamp in your passport.

Learn about admissions and entry requirements as well as restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products, and other restricted/prohibited goods by reviewing the CBP website under International Visitors and Clearing CBP.

Change of Status

Persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program are not permitted to change status in the United States. See Change My Nonimmigrant Status on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

More information can be found on the U.S. Department of State website or on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

!! Immediate Visa Help !!

TamizdatAVAIL is a non-profit project that provides both urgent and long term solutions to pervasive U.S. visa problems faced by the international performing arts community. The TamizdatAVAIL Hotline is a free hotline that provides performing arts professionals with urgent legal assistance regarding U.S. visa issues. It is staffed by legal professionals and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Their team of volunteer lawyers provide free advice to performing arts professionals who have already filed an I-129 and are experiencing a problem in a subsequent stage of the visa process.

DO YOU NEED HELP WITH AN ARTIST VISA PROBLEM? Call TamizdatAVAIL at 718-541-3641 or email avail@tamizdat.org.

Mission Statement

The mission of Folk Alliance International is to nurture, engage, and empower the international folk music community - traditional and contemporary, amateur and professional - through education, advocacy and performance.

Additional Conference Events

2019 FAI Conference

DATE: February 13-17, 2019

LOCATION:  Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montréal, Québec, Canada

UPCOMING DEADLINES:  Early Bird member registration ends May 31, 2018