Van der Graaf Generator at NEARfest, Bethlehem, PA, USA
June 22nd 2012
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Scorched Earth
Your Time Starts Now
Flight
Bunsho
Lifetime
All That Before
Mr. Sands
Over the Hill
Childlike Faith In Childhood's End

Refugees

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Photos © Joe del Tufo 2012
And many thanks to NEARfest


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Soundcheck photos by Padraig McCormack


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Rob LaDuca, NEARfest co-founder:

The visa process is costly but not stupidly so. The cost comes in the time and headache and paperwork hassles, as you will read below. This is how it rolled for VDGG.

February: Compile band biography and about 30 pages of interviews and CD reviews and live performance reviews to illustrate that the group is 'internationally recognized as being excellent in its field'. Fill out the I-129 P-1 music artist visa application, which asks for financial info about the festival, and biographic information on all persons in the travelling party. A formal itinerary for the entire tour must be provided. All performance contracts must be included. A touring history for the previous five years must be provided. If one of the venues (here NEARfest) is acting as the petitioner for the visa, a letter from each of the other venues must be included stating explicitly that they are permitting NEARfest to serve as the petitioner. (Getting all of the contracts was a gigantic pain in the ass.)

Early March: Submit draft P-1 visa application to the American Federation of Musicians union in New York, along with $250 check. Within a week we got a letter from the union stating that since the group has international renown and an American audience interested in seeing them live, they had no objections to them being granted a P-1 visa.

Total cost for this part: $250 visa advisory fee. $30 printing/shipping costs.

Mid April: Submit finalized P-1 visa application and 30 pages of interviews and CD reviews and live performance reviews to the US Customs and Immigration Service. $350 fee. There are about nine different places you have to sign on the form and if you miss one of them they will send it right back to you. We used the Premium Processing Service so that they are legally bound to give a visa approval or denial within 15 calendar days. This service also allow you to email/call to ask for updates, and allowing them to email/fax if they require additional information. Premium Processing = $1150. Without Premium Processing they are only required to give an answer within 6 months. And then they will send you a regular snail mail letter each time they request more information. Time was of the essence so we had to pony up for the Premium Processing.

Total cost for this part: $1500 in government fees. $50 printing/shipping costs.

Late April: receive email approval of P-1 visa application. Wait for hard copy approval notice, which is sent by regular mail. VDGG's hard copy notice came 7 days after the email approval. Send hard copy approval notice to band management in London.

Total cost: $10 global priority mail

Early May: Band and crew schedule required interviews at the US Embassy in London in order to claim the approved visas. Interviews are scheduled about a month later. In the meantime, each person in the travelling party completes an online visa claim form, and pays a $120 per person filing fee. A hard copy of the payment receipt must be presented at the interview or the application will be denied

Total cost: $720

Early June: band and crew travel to London the night before the interview, have dinner, and get hotel rooms. Why are the hotel rooms necessary? The interviews are scheduled at 8 am. At the embassy the band spend a couple hours in the queue, wait to get to the interview window. They answer some questions for a few minutes, and hand over their passports to their interviewer along with a prepaid priority mailing envelope ($15 each). The band and crew then travel back to their respective homes in England. A few days later, about 3 weeks before the festival, their passports arrive in the mail with a United States of America P-1 Visa stamp it.

Total cost factoring in travel, hotel rooms, meals out, shipping: $500
Intangible cost: Wasting a day out of your life for travel to the embassy, waiting in an hours long line to answer just a couple minutes worth of questions, and travel back home.

Final total cost: Approximately $3000

(Now you can understand why band members and festival organizers can get snarky when people have picayune complaints or display entitled attitudes. This is what we go through as organizers and artists to bring you the concert.)

(Originally posted on www.progressiveears.com)

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