Canadian Performers Working in the United States

Previously I’ve written articles like How to Produce a Touring Illusion Show, and How to Perform and Work Internationally. But for Canadian performers the main headache of performing across the border in America is obtaining the correct working Visa.

Your Greatest Resource

The best resource I’ve found is a PDF distributed by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. “Canadian Performers: How to Enter the United States

Canadian performers

This publication provides the information needed by Canadian performing artists and theatre, dance and musical troupes planning to perform in the United States. It describes the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) visa classifications, procedures and timelines, required materials, and deadlines for submitting applications and includes lists of INS offices, labour unions, immigration tax lawyers and other resources. The guide also provides definitions of U.S. immigration terms and offers a breakdown of some of the costs associated with visa petitions, applications and processing services.

In the booklet it explains exactly how to apply for the various types of Visa’s for Canadian Performers. You can apply yourself or you can do what Murray SawChuck talks about below and hire a lawyer who specializes in working Visa’s to help you with the process.

Never Try to Enter Illegally

Some performers try and cross the border illegally under the guise of a vacation while getting paid for work. Obviously, this is a very very stupid idea. There are very stiff consequences should you be caught.

Once I was attending a magic convention in the states where I was going to enter the stage competition. The border guard was concerned because I was entering the country with equipment that I normally use make a living with. I had to explain multiple times that the equipment was ONLY going to be used to enter in the magic competition and I wasn’t receiving compensation of any kind. That’s when he turned to google to check the convention website to make sure that I wasn’t on the entertainer schedule. In the end I was able to cross without issue because I was being honest and upfront. They are very meticulous at the border and if you try to cross illegally they will catch you!

Interview: Murray SawChuck

Canadian magician Murray SawChuck has been performing internationally for the last 18 years. Murray generously sat down with me to answer a few questions on performing in the United States.

Murray SawChuckMurray’s star power has exploded onto the entertainment scene with the charisma, personality and talent of an entertainer born to be on stage and screen, after his successful run as a semi-finalist on NBC-TV’s “America’s Got Talent.” The #1 network summer series was viewed by over 22 million fans nationwide. Murray dazzled the judges: Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel by producing a Ferrari from thin air, transforming a girl locked in a cage into a 450 pound tiger and did the largest trick ever on “AGT” by vanishing an entire 1918 steam train locomotive in mere seconds. All of these illusions took place before a “live” and national “TV” audience, and brought standing ovations from the judges.

Leif: First off, how long have you been performing internally for?

Murray: I have toured around the world for the last 18 years from Lebanon and Paris to Singapore and Ukriane!

Leif: And how long have you been performing in the states for?

Murray: I have been performing in the state for the last 15 years.

Leif: What type of Visa did you apply for while working in the states?

Murray: I never applied for any. The key is to have the employer apply or you and use a good immigration attorney. I had an O1 and O2 visa when I first worked for “The Lawrence Welk LIVE Show” in Escondido, CA. The lawyer obtained the visa for me.

O-1 Visa: For an individual (one person only on the petition) of extraordinary ability (distinction) in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television fields

O-2 Visa: For essential support personnel (including performers) accompanying the O-1 performer of extraordinary ability or achievement

Leif: Was there anyone else in your company that needed to apply for a visa, such as an assistant?

Murray: No, just me. No matter where I fly I can us local talent. Save a lot of hassle and visas.

Leif: Do you have any advice for Canadian performers looking for work in the states?

Murray: Yes! The NUMBER one key to working and having any chance at getting a visa to work in the states is to have something ORIGINAL that NO ONE else is or can do. I invented an act all with Compact Discs and won over 24 international and national awards titling me a world champion. One of the main reasons along with BEING DIFFERENT I created the act was to stand out and be able to be eligible for a visa. I wanted to be the ONLY one that could do an act like that which gave me a stronger chance of gaining a visa to work in the United States.

Murray SawChuckLeif: Any funny travel stories?

Murray: I remember once in Shanghai, China I won the world title of World Champion Magician in Shenzhen, China. It was on television and broadcast to more that 8 million Chinese viewers. Well, when I left for the airport the next morning and my driver dropped us off at the airport I went to check in my suitcases and as soon as I entered the airport I was surprise as everyone recognized me from the TV show the night before.

I was escorted to the front of the line to check my bags in, then to immigration, and as I approached immigration I never had time to fill out my customs form before going through immigration. I must of had 5 immigration people assisting me. I shook all their hands and they handed me the proper travel immigration form everyone has to fill out when leaving the country.

I started to fill in my address, passport information and they said …”No, no… not important…” just sign at the bottom… I said “Sure”… they are the law of the land! So whatever they wanted.. I signed the bottom of the form then the guy folded it up and put it in his pocket… and said thanks now I have a souvenir and you are free to go through! I was so surprised and said “Thanks!”

Leif: Have you ever had any problems crossing the border? Have you ever had any problems with customs with your equipment?

Murray: NO never any problems… you enter legally and honestly and abide by the rules… you won’t have any problems. There are always questions with my equipment but if you are using them for what you say you are… YOUR PERFORMANCE… and you have the proper documents, there should be no problems.

Leif: You’ve been living and working in the states for a while now. Are you still a Canadian resident?

Murray: Yes I am still a Canadian resident… I will NEVER give up my Canadian residence or citizenship. I am a united states citizen and when I married my first wife I received a green card then went for my citizenship after having a green card for 8 years. Now I am a citizen of both countries.

Leif: Is there anything else people should know if working intentionally is their goal?

Murray: Just be different and original… The easiest way to get accepted is to bring something new, different into the country that they don’t have already… that’s what helps a lot.

Leif: Thanks again Murray for taking the time to answer these questions! If anyone would like more information on Murray you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter @MurraySawChuck.

Have you ever travelled internally? Leave your tips below in the comments section.