Category Archives: Updates

Important P2 Visa Update

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee increases effective October 2, 2020.

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 29th is the DEADLINE to apply under CURRENT FEE ($460USD)

P-Visas $695 USD – recommended processing time 60 calendar days.

Premium Processing $1440 USD (unchanged) – processing time 15 business days.

Large touring ensembles and orchestras of more than 25 performers will be required to remit double the fees noted, and must remit under separate money orders [similar to essential support workers falling under P2-S]

For more details, click HERE and please email Liana White lwhite@afm.org with questions on the fee & administrative changes.

CFM Submission for Federal Pre-Budget Consultations

  • Recommendation 1 (CERB): That the government extend the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) until at least March 31, 2021, but preferably until all crowd prohibitions have been lifted and government allows live performance venues to reopen.

OR: That the government extend the CERB (as above) and restrict the extension to entertainment workers.

AND: That the government extend the CERB (under either of the above scenarios), and increase the $1,000 monthly non-penalized earnings, with a gradual claw-back of benefits, rather than termination of the benefit if the maximum earnings are exceeded.

  • Recommendation 2 (UBI): That the government implement a Universal Basic Income.
  • Recommendation 3 (EI Expansion): That the government expand the Employment Insurance (EI) program to fully include the self-employed, both as contributors and recipients.
  • Recommendation 4 (EI Extension): That the government extend EI Regular Benefits, on a temporary basis, past the maximum claim period by 4-week increments, until such time as government lifts all crowd prohibitions.
  • Recommendation 5 (RRSPs): That the government allow Canadians with Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) accounts to make non-taxable, limited withdrawals and to repay these withdrawals over a defined period.

Respectfully,

Alan Willaert

AFM Vice-President from Canada

Complete submission:

https://cfmusicians.afm.org/uploads/file/2020.07.28%20-%20Pre-Budget%20Consultation%20Submissions.pdf

News release:

https://cfmusicians.afm.org/news/written-submission-for-the-pre-budget-consultations

USCIS P and O Visa Fee Increases

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented fee increases and other changes effective October 2, 2020. These increases have gone through despite AFM’s vast lobbying in opposition to these amendments, the potential of which was announced by USCIS in December 2019.

The new fee for a P2 (and all categories of P Visa) will be $695 USD, and $705 USD for O Visas. At this time, the recommended processing time is still 60 calendar days.

The Premium Processing fee of $1440 remains unchanged, but the processing time has increased from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.

In addition to the fee increase, there is now a 25-person cap per petition. Therefore, large touring ensembles and orchestras comprised of more than 25 performers will be required to file more than one petition, along with the appropriate per petition fee.

USCIS did issue responses to the various lobbying efforts in opposition to the above changes. In summation, USCIS has stated that while they do not wish to unduly place financial and other constraints on performing arts workers, they cannot provide preferential treatment to one sector, which would place additional burdens upon other sectors as a result.  With respect to the O Visa now carrying a higher fee than the P Visas, and capping the number of musicians, the USCIS response is O Visas and large entourages, respectively, require more time and resources to process.

In spite of these recent changes, the AFM maintains its commitment to continued lobbying efforts to implement improvements benefiting musicians and all arts & culture workers.

For more info: https://cfmusicians.afm.org/news/uscis-p-and-o-visa-fee-increases and https://cfmusicians.afm.org/services/work-permits

 

The Music Performance Trust Fund’s Music Family Scholarship

The Music Performance Trust Fund invites young adults who have grown up in a musical family to tell us their story! Applicants must be a child of a professional musician, and pursuing further education after high school. The program is open to qualified students who meet all the minimum qualifications. Open to all students in the United States and Canada. Scholarships will be awarded based on the successful completion of this application form; the strength of the applicant’s essay; and the representation by the applicant that all answers are true. Please complete all items in the application and essay page/s within.

Scholarship Overview

Scholarship Application

The Show Must Be Paused

On June 2, 2020, the Canadian Federation of Musicians will be participating in the #TheShowMustBePaused Music Industry Blackout Tuesday, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We will be abstaining from social media engagement and taking a pause to encourage all to read and review anti-racist resources.

The Canadian Federation of Musicians stand with our black, indigenous, and people of colour members, staff and community-at-large against racial inequity, racial violence, and racist actions of all kinds.

https://www.theshowmustbepaused.com/

Not What I Meant By ‘Going Viral’

Not What I Meant By ‘Going Viral’ by Alan Willaert, AFM International Vice President from Canada

In 1927, a movie called The Jazz Singer was released. As the first “talkie,” it sounded the death knell for live music work in theatres throughout North America. The phasing out of radio orchestras resulted in a large number of musicians being unemployed. However, 2020 will be infamous in history as a virus now identified as COVID-19 effectively shut down an entire entertainment industry in an extremely sudden and devastating manner. This is not what we hoped for when using the term “going viral.”

On March 13, the Canadian Office (CFM) instituted reduced hours, a rotating but skeletal staff, and proceeded to provide services on a work-from-home basis. On that same March 13, work kicked into overdrive as the true extent of the damage became apparent, and action had to be taken quickly to mitigate the toll taken by a total work stoppage.

A letter from the CFM went out immediately to all levels of government because in the initial Federal response workers not normally eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) were off the radar—meaning 98% of Canadian musicians were excluded. The letter stressed the following points:

  • A waiver of the one-week waiting
    period for EI.
  • Expanding the benefit to include “gig economy,” or freelance workers.
  • Funding for symphony, theatre, and arts organizations to allow them to maintain payroll.
  • Assistance to stimulate and revitalize the industry once the crisis had passed.

Videoconferencing had begun almost immediately with other entertainment unions. CFM was an active participant, and signed on to a joint letter to government, along with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association (CAEA) and others. We also asked Canadian locals to track, as much as possible, the lost work suffered by their respective memberships. While this was clearly a monumental task, we were able to create a combined spreadsheet, updated weekly, in the event the government was insistent upon having backup data as the only justification for compensation.

Michael Murray, executive director of Local 149 (Toronto, ON), was instrumental in the creation and administration of an online petition containing several recommendations to the government for response to the crisis. A joint letter from CFM and Local 149 was sent to Heritage Minister Guilbeault on March 26. In short, the recommendations were:

  • Ensure that all musicians would be eligible for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
  • Implement Live Arts Labour Tax Credits and Live Arts Labour Rebates.
  • Consider allowing arts and cultural industry companies, including small, medium, and large for-profit, not-for-profit, and charitable companies, to have access to the Business Development Bank’s working capital loans and that these loans are fully forgivable.
  • Consider providing significant targeted funds of at least $50 million to CBC/Radio-Canada to be put towards the wages, production, broadcast, and streaming of live performance studio recordings, within the bounds of public health guidance both during full COVID-19 restrictions and at a time of recovery.
  • Grant a reprieve on the remittance of Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
  • Consider a contribution to each of the AFC, Fondation des Artistes and its affiliated funds, and Unison Benevolent Fund to support their Emergency Financial Assistance Programs at this time of high demand.
  • Consider advocating to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for visa extensions and provide refunds on visa fees.
  • Consider the payout of all grants and subsidies from the Department of Heritage and waive the requirement for completed activity for those who have provided cancellation fees to musicians and other artists.

Rosalyn Dennett, who is an Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) staff member at the Canadian Office, has been instrumental in posting updates for available subsidies, as well as all things COVID-19, in our social media outlets. In addition, she has created a one-stop centre for all information in the Canadian section of the AFM website, located at www.cfmusicians.org/resources.

The CFM was also asked to participate in a task force, spearheaded by the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA). This has proven useful because the employers of the entertainment industry are also shut down, and they have many of the same concerns as the musicians whom they employ. A united voice to government, on behalf of the industry as a whole, is far more likely to be a credible barometer, wherever our objectives are not contrary.

We are also participating in a separate coalition of entertainment unions, specifically IATSE, CAEA, AFM, and Associated Designers of Canada (ADC). Again, as one voice, we are in the process of creating a letter to government to identify long-term issues, and make suggestions for the industry to re-energize, once clearance to return to work is given. These issues are:

  • Income earning thresholds should be implemented to allow live performance workers/artists to generate a reasonable level of “gig” income while still in receipt of Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) support.
  • Seasonal and contractor workers/artists who would have generated income from live performance work in the spring and fall of 2020 but for the health crisis should be entitled to the CERB.
  • The duration of the CERB for live performance workers/artists needs to be extended to at least until the end of 2020 given the fact that the recovery of the live performance industry to its pre-health crisis norm will take at least that long.
  • Live performance employers should be able to claim the 75% wage subsidy for all regular full-time, part-time, contract, and/or seasonal workers/artists.
  • Live performance employers should be able to claim the 75% wage subsidy for all workers/artists irrespective of whether those workers/artists are engaged as traditional “employees” or in a self-employed capacity.
  • The duration of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for live performance employers needs to be extended to at least until the end of 2020 given the fact that the recovery of the live performance industry to its pre-health crisis norm will take at least that long.

In addition to the foregoing, we propose the following additional support initiatives for the federal government’s consideration to assist the arts and culture industry in its health crisis recovery:

  1. Specific Arts and Culture Emergency Economic Support
  • Increase funding allocations to the Canada Arts Council and various provincial arts bodies that will allow those bodies to utilize their expertise to allocate additional funds to arts and culture organizations to assist them in attracting live audience attendees—using an organization’s previous years’ ticket sales averages as the eligibility criteria for funding amounts (i.e. providing organizations funding equal to 50% of the average of the previous five years’ ticket sales so that the organization can attract audiences with reduced ticket prices).
  • It is our understanding that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy does not include municipally/provincially run venues if they are owned by a provincial and or municipal entity. We therefore ask for the inclusion of municipally/provincially run venues in the CEWS or commitment of separate funds earmarked exclusively to assist in the recovery for municipally and provincially run venues.
  • Amend the Income Tax Act on a temporary basis so that live performance ticket purchases are treated as charitable donations for tax purposes for 2020 and 2021.
  • Devise and implement federal tax credit incentives for live performance organizations similar to the types of provincial tax incentive policies that have given rise to record-setting levels of film and television production across Canada.
  • Identify and implement longer-term financial assistance initiatives that recognize the recovery of the live performance industry will take much longer than any other industry.
  1. National Marketing Campaign to Rediscover and Support the Arts
  • Work with all arts and culture stakeholders to design, implement, and fund a national marketing campaign aimed at encouraging Canadians to return to the various arts and culture venues as patrons and audiences.
  • As part of any marketing campaign, allocate funding to provincial and municipal organizations to enable them to use their expertise to design and implement more focused localized campaigns collaboratively with stakeholders.
  1. Safe Return for Workers and Audiences
  • Work with all arts and culture stakeholders and all levels of provincial and municipal government to design and implement appropriate public health protocols that will provide an environment for the safe return of workers/artists and audiences to the various arts and culture venues.

As you can see, we continue to be involved in many initiatives in an ongoing effort to ease the stresses imposed on our members because of this worldwide phenomenon. But, make no mistake—musicians would have not been included in the CERB without the persistence of the CFM and our sister unions to ensure that “gig economy” artists would be covered, and that any incidental revenue they had because of students, royalties, or other small amounts of income would not render them ineligible. When I pressed him for answers during the CMPA videoconference, Minister Guilbeault stated emphatically that he had heard our message “loud and clear,” and that adjustments would be made to accommodate our freelance players.

While none of us can predict what the short-term future is of the COVID-19 fiasco, please be aware that your union is doing everything it can, along with our partners, to ensure our members are included in all government subsidies, and to provide a positive transition into the world post-virus. For now, please embrace safe practices and distancing, that you and your families remain safe and healthy.

 

AFM Musicians’ Relief Fund

The Musicians’ Relief Fund helps union musicians who work gig to gig and are confronting extraordinary financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that you must meet ALL of the following five requirements to apply for financial assistance:

  1. You must currently be a member in good standing of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada.
  2. You must be primarily engaged as a freelance musician.
  3. You must not be receiving post-COVID-19 lockdown payments of any sort from a musical employer, which payments flow from an agreement between an employer and AFM or one of its locals.
  4. You must reside and work in the United States or Canada.
  5. You have lost work due to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).

Applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis, and must be received by November 15, 2020. Payment amount is subject to availability of funds. Initial payments will not exceed $300 but may be revised upward if additional funding permits.

Application Form: https://www.afm.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Musicians-Relief-Fund-Application.pdf

Jigsaw Casting is seeking professional Musicians or Singers

Jigsaw Casting is seeking professional Musicians or Singers ACROSS CANADA to send a song to Self-Isolating Canadians during COVID-19!

Let’s brighten the spirits of people across Canada who could use a lift, by performing VIRTUAL solos just for them, from your own home, in accordance with physical distancing. Open to any talented professional musician or singer who can accompany themselves with a guitar, violin, bagpipes, cello, fiddle, keyboards, recorded bed track, or another instrument. If you have the ability to record yourself dedicating and playing an original song to someone who really needs it, let’s team up to give Canadians a musical boost! Each musical artist will be required to dedicate and perform a different song or piece for 2-3 different people.

Musicians can perform an original song that they have the copyright to or play classical pieces that are in the public domain. In order to qualify, you will need to have lost your job as a musician or lost gigs due to COVID-19 and currently be physically distancing. All recorded dedications must be done from the interior or exterior of your own home.

Musicians will be compensated $900.00. per track performed. Selected musicians will be required to do 2 – 3 songs/videos. Chosen musicians could also receive significant national exposure. Musicians must be members of CFM (Canadian Federation of Musicians) or ACTRA (or willing to join CFM at own expense) They must also be Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents to apply. No previous acting experience is required.

To apply, please make a video. Here are the instructions:

1. Please introduce yourself, giving your name and your location.

2. Tell us why you think it’s important to give Canadians a musical boost during COVID-19.

3. In keeping with your own musical style, sing/play an original or public domain song for us, accompanying yourself on an instrument if required.

4. Lastly, give us a quick video tour of your indoor and outdoor space(s) where you could record yourself dedicating and performing your musical solos.

You can film this on your cell phone. Please keep it under 3 minutes long, then apply online with your video to: https://musicians2.castingcrane.com/

To be considered for this campaign. You must meet and be available for the following dates:

DEADLINE TO SUBMIT: May 20, 2020 at 9am.

SHOOT: May 22 to June 15, 2020 (filming yourself from home).

 

 

P2 Visa Processing Update

The AFM Canada office is closed indefinitely. Emails are checked regularly, but if you don’t see an answer to your question, please follow up.

If you are inquiring about a P2 visa, see below for some general information.

  1. The CFM won’t be able to process new P2 applications until the office can reopen. The building, however, will remain open and able to accept delivery from UPS, Canada Post, FedEx and other carriers. Be advised that it’s currently uncertain when U.S. venues will reopen and begin hosting music events again, so any application you file represents a risk, as USCIS does not provide refunds or date-transfers (see #3 below).
  2. If the Canadian office received your visa application prior to March 23, it has likely been processed, and a petition is with USCIS. As of March 24, USCIS was still approving petitions within the normal 45-day timeframe. Email Jill Leger if you would like a status update, and she will do her best to provide you with the latest information. jleger@afm.org
  3. If your work in the US has been cancelled, kindly be advised that USCIS unfortunately does not offer refunds, nor does it let applicants apply an existing visa to a later time period. If your work has been rescheduled beyond the original visa-validity period, you’ll need to apply for a new visa with all the usual fees. In some cases, AFM Canada may be able to waive the AFM fee and when the time comes, can discuss if you qualify.
  4. Until the border re-opens to non-essential traffic, Canadian musicians will not be able to enter and work in the U.S., even if they have a valid visa. Wait until the border reopens before travelling, and please take all recommended precautions.
  5. AFM is lobbying governments on behalf of musicians suffering financial hits due to the global pandemic. If your gigs have been cancelled, please let your Local know. Your voice and experiences can help build a stronger case. info@calgarymusicians.org

COVID-19 Support Resources

Petrillo Fund Financial Assistance

In response to the fast-moving events associated with the Coronavirus pandemic, we wish to remind local officers and AFM members of the availability of limited emergency financial aid through the AFM’s Lester Petrillo Fund. The Fund was established to assist members-in-good standing who become ill or disabled and are unable to accept work. The following circumstances would qualify for assistance:

  1. A member is diagnosed with Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  2. A member tests positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and is quarantined.

Members and Local Officers may download Petrillo Fund applications here. Completed applications together with supportive medical documentation should be submitted by members to their local unions, which will then submit them to the Federation.

Actors’ Fund of Canada

Over the years many of our members have turned to the Actors’ Fund of Canada, which has been in existence since 1958. Now over 60 years after those visionary actors put $5 into a pot, the Fund they created disburses over $500,000 annually to cover necessities for members of all the many and various trades and professions that make up the entertainment industry, including musicians.

Common requests include:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Grocery costs
  • Medical costs
  • Emergency dental costs
  • Utility bills
  • Dues (maximum of one year’s worth of dues; no initiation fees)
  • Childcare expenses

https://afchelps.ca/get-help/

https://afchelps.ca/covid-19-guide/

Unison Benevolent Fund

This Fund is an assistance program created and administered for the music community, by the music community. Unison is designed to provide discreet relief to music industry personnel in times of personal hardship and crisis. www.unisonfund.ca

Government Support

Federal – available April 6

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/covid19-individuals.html#new_canada_emergency_response_benefit

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/introduces-canada-emergency-response-benefit-to-help-workers-and-businesses.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html#Support_for_Canadians

Public Health

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

Other Info

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cerb-covid19-benefits-trudeau-1.5523052

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-income-supports-covid19-1.5509247

https://cupe.ca/canada-emergency-response-benefit-qa

Save Live Arts Initiative

For information on this initiative as well as the petition visit https://www.savelivearts.ca/

#CanadaPerforms Initiative

#CanadaPerforms is a $200,000 short-term relief fund that pays Canadian artists for their online performances. https://nac-cna.ca/en/series/canadaperforms

AFM Canadian Office

http://cfmusicians.org/resources/covid-19-resources

Vice-President from Canada Letter to Governments

Vice-President from Canada Letter to Governments – French