Laurier student starts petition to axe P2 visa

Front man of Gold Finch, Omar Elkhatib, performing at Maxwell's Concerts and Events. Contributed image
Front man of Gold Finch, Omar Elkhatib, performing at Maxwell’s Concerts and Events.
Contributed image

Canadian artists that have hit the pinnacle of success have made it apparent that you do not have to be an American artist to become well known.

It is however incessant that you tour the United States, based on market size and accessibility reasons.

Second-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University and member of his own band, Omar Elkhatib, put the mic on the need to play concerts across the border.  While this may seem easy enough, there are many hurdles one must clear in order do so. Many of which rack up high costs that it isn’t always viable.

Why isn’t Canadian touring enough for artists?

“It’s a smaller market—a decent market, but [not] compared to the States where there many more markets that are much bigger,” said Elkhatib.

This is one of the drawbacks of touring solely in Canada.

There is a P2 visa that a band must obtain in order to tour the United States, but it seems more a money grab than anything. Explained in detail through a recent petition, Elkhatib and his band, Gold Finch, have turned to the internet to explain the visa that Canadian artists have to obtain to tour in the U.S. This visa, however, is not mandatory for American artists looking to come to Canada.

Elkhatib went on to explain that there was a similar petition created by Canadians to ease the process for American bands to tour Canada, which raised awareness and ultimately led to get rid of any such touring restrictions.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything different. I guess I just took the initiative to push it through,” he said.

It’s surprising that such costs and processes were eliminated for American bands, but are still intact for Canadian bands looking to venture south.

The petition has garnered over 5,500 signatures so far in its first few weeks online, but in comparison to the 100,000 plus signatures that helped rid American bands from visa application costs, there is still a long way to go.

“The goal is to get rid of [the visa], but the more realistic goal would be to make it more financially feasible for Canadian artists to actually tour America,” Elkhatib said.

Nothing can be achieved without taking the first step forward and this goes to show just how passionate and involved Laurier students can be within their unique communities.

In today’s world of online streaming and internet connectivity, it may be difficult to understand why traditional touring schedules are still intact. The internet has been a great resource for artists and bands to distribute their music to the masses, however, generates little revenue. Illegal downloading and small percentages from sales leave touring as the main source of income for many artists.

As a young band hoping to tour cities along the east coast of America such as New York City and Chicago, Gold Finch hopes that this will soon become a reality, if the American government does away with these restrictions.

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