John Robb teams with Labour MP to call for reform in US visa system for bands

The pair call the current red tape 'expensive and unworkable'

Musician and writer John Robb has teamed up with a Labour MP to lobby the government to call for easier access to the US.

The Goldblade and Membranes veteran is working with MP Kerry McCarthy on the campaign. They will meet next week with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey to enlist the support of the government to call for changes in the current restrictive system. Robb called the current visa system “expensive and unworkable.”

The campaign is backed by the Musicians’ Union, the Association Of Independent Music and the Association Of British Orchestras.

Kicking off the campaign, Robb said: “The special relationship between the UK and the USA has been the backbone of international post-war pop culture. The shared influences, pool of creativity and flow of ideas have been crucial to what is one of the biggest industries in the world. That flow is currently being hampered by the expensive and unworkable US visa situation for British bands. It’s a situation that is getting worse.”

McCarthy added: “Since I first raised this issue in Parliament in March, I was surprised by the responses from right across the UK music industry. They confirmed that this is a real difficulty for musicians and that it is becoming more and more critical. We hope the government will speak up on behalf of British musicians to encourage USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and the US Embassy to address this issue.”

Explaining the challenges facing UK bands, Robb added: “In the past few years the American visa situation has tightened up and become far more expensive [and now] we have a situation where getting a British group into America can cost up to £2,700, and that’s not counting travel and accommodation expenses for bands outside London who have to travel for the 8am London American Embassy interview.

“The forms that have to be filled in are very difficult to understand and lots of money has to be spent on an American agency processing the forms. There have been endless examples of British bands, some very high profile, having to reschedule or cancel tours in the last year. And if an application fails, they don’t get any of the money back.

“American bands find it far cheaper and easier to travel and work in the UK. What we need is a fairer and friendlier system that will break down the barriers, and let us do what we do, which is play music.”