Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE led a delegation to the recently held Inter Virgin Islands Council (IVIC) meeting on September 2 in St. Thomas, where among other areas of the mutual interests, the two Governments discussed the cultural exchange of musicians.
During the meeting, the Government of the United States Virgin Islands announced an interim measure allowing BVI bands to travel and perform in the United States Virgin Islands. The measure will be facilitated under the visa waiver programme, once the bands have been issued with an invitation by the Government of the United States Virgin Islands to perform. Full details are still to be worked out.
By law, non-United States citizens coming into the United States or any of its territories to perform temporarily as members of an entertainment group are required to have a special visa classification, that is, a P Visa pursuant to 8CFR 214.2 (p).
Minister for Education and Culture, Honourable Myron Walwyn said, “In 2013 after members of our local bands expressed their concern to me about this on-going situation, we have made every effort to put this matter on the agenda of the previous and present administration in the USVI. I am pleased that Lieutenant Governor Potter has worked so consistently and urgently with me to resolve this situation. I thank him very much.”
In making the announcement, Lieutenant Governor of the Virgin Islands, Honourable Osbert Potter said, “We have such a rich history with each other and we are so close that we must do everything that we can to ensure that the relationship continues, and continues in a mutually beneficial fashion.”
After various meetings with Honourable Walwyn and the US Customs and Border Protection, Lt. Governor Potter said, “In the entire process, we discovered a few things that were impediments along the way that made it a little difficult. But in trying to come up with a solution, what we were able to come up with at the moment, it is temporary in nature and not the full-fledged resolution that we are looking for.”
He explained that he wrote to the US Customs and Border Protection and recommended the use of the visa waiver programme for the BVI Bands if they were coming as part of a cultural exchange between the two Governments. The recommendation was received positively.
Honourable Potter noted, “For now, I can say with surety that the bands would be able to come to the US Virgin Islands, provided they are invited by the USVI Government and anything outside of this arrangement, the bands will have to go through the normal process of acquiring their visas in order to work with any promoters.”
The Government of the USVI has, however, given the assurance that they will make every effort to ensure the necessary legislative changes are made in Congress to have the situation fully resolved.
In 2014, Minister for Education and Culture Honourable Myron V. Walwyn led a delegation to St. Thomas to meet with the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency. Additionally, the territories discussed the requirements for Virgin Islands bands travelling to the United States Virgin Islands to perform at various functions and events.
During that meeting the Ministry of Education and Culture made a presentation titled: ‘Virgin Islands Musicians access to perform in the United States Virgin Islands’. Subsequently in July 2016, Honourable Potter made an official visit to the BVI to further discuss the matter.
More information on the visa waiver programme for the cultural exchange of musical bands and entertainers may be obtained from the Ministry of Education and Culture.