Brian Vollmer speaks out against uneven treatment for musicians’ travel across US border

Brian Vollmer speaks out against uneven treatment for musicians’ travel across US border

If you’re an American, ever wonder why your favourite Canadian band has yet to make it across the US border to play some shows on United States of America soil?

brian-vollmer-photo-2Helix‘s frontman Brian Vollmer recently turned to Facebook to air out his frustrations on what he perceives to be an uneven treatment for musicians travelling across the US border.

The following message was posted (in part) on Vollmer‘s Facebook page three days ago (with slight edits):

“Just finished filling out the myriad of forms having to deal with our U.S. work application for a date we have next May in the U.S. The costs involved are astronomical and getting worse. During the [previous Canadian Prime Minister StephenHarper years I was continually petitioning the Canadian government to hit back at the U.S. immigration service for the unequal treatment of Canadian bands trying to work in the U.S. as opposed to American musicians working in Canada. Finally, after many years of writing newspapers, bitching at my MP, etc. The Conservatives started to hit back by putting a punitive “tax” on American bands coming up to play. Immediately Canadian bar owners like Jonathon at Norma Jeans here in London, and musicians who seemed motivated by a “Harper Hate” started firing off Facebook protests, calling the local radio station about the situation, etc. At the time I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes….finally after all this time we had somewhat leveled the playing field between us and the Americans, and Canadians were bitching! Jonathon‘s argument over at Enormous Jeans was that it was killing his business because he couldn’t find enough Canadian bands to fill his club. REALLY????

…As soon as [current Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau got in he did away with almost all restrictions on American bands….

brian-vollmer-photoConsider this: Americans have to pay very little to come play here. They also have to give little notice and can also have criminal & drug records. (Correct me if I’m wrong here) Canadian musicians, on the other hand, have to fill out the following forms and pay the following costs:

$325 U.S. to “slow track” the U.S. work permit for the band. This means that the work permit application has to be in 120 days in advance of the date. This cost is going up to $450 U.S. as of December 15th. If the permit doesn’t come back in time (there’s no guarantee) and you have to “fast track” the permit, add another $1,250.00. All of these above charges are NON REFUNDABLE.
For my ONE soundman I have to pay the same above charges. ($325 U.S./$450 Dec. 15th/$1,250 if permit not back in time)
$200.00 Canadian to the Musician’s Union to process my work permit.

$300.00 for the Carnet. The Carnet allows us to carry our guitars, a few cymbals, and my in-ears across the border. You also have to pay 30% of the gross worth of your gear to be held as a surety in case you don’t bring your gear back. In other words, U.S. immigration is saying that to prevent us from potentially selling our guitars/cymbals/in ears in the U.S. (REALLY?) So…you have to get the Carnet signed on the Canadian side and then the American side when you go in, and visa versa when you come back. The problem is a lot of border guards don’t know what a Carnet is, the Carnet office is closed or non-existent, or is 15 miles from the airport. If you don’t get the Carnet signed they fine you and take it off your surety!!!! Can you say CASH GRAB???

brian-vollmer-photo-3Not only do you have to apply 4 months ahead of time to “slow track” the permit, you also have to have dates every 25 days (approx) for the duration of the work permit. To keep it open for a year means you have to have contracts 16 months in advance. WHO DOES THAT??? NOBODY!!! So everyone hands in fake contracts knowing that U.S. immigration doesn’t usually follow up to see if you’ve actually played the gig. I refuse to do that.

No add ons: If you happen to be in St. Louis and a gig comes up while you’re down there you can’t take it. You have to apply all over again.

…My point is that Canadians are being restricted from playing the American market and yet the Americans are getting unfettered access. HOW FAIR IS THAT??? Helix used to play the Deerfoot in Calgary once a year and now we haven’t been there in a year and a half. Why? Because the roster is now filled with U.S. acts! If it wasn’t for the Canadian dollar being in the toilet for the American green back we’d be swamped.

In December I will be putting together a petition to take to the American and Canadian governments to protest the uneven treatment between our two countries in regards to musicians travelling across the U.S. border. If any of you is interested in signing, please contact me at