At issue, according to an immigration attorney hired to advise SXSW, is the misinterpretation by some border agents and U.S. officials of a long standing policy differentiating between promotional showcases and paid performances.
Jonathan Ginsburg, an expert in entertainment and immigration law based in the Washington, D.C. area, now serving as immigration counsel to SXSW issued this statement:
“U.S. immigration law allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. using a B visa or the Visa Waiver Program to conduct business, but not to render services. The U.S. Department of State, accordingly, has long recognized that entertainment groups may enter the U.S. to "showcase," but not to perform under contract with U.S. venues or other employers.SXSW is working in concert with other U.S. organizations in an effort to ensure that both the State Department and CBP ( U.S. Customs & Border Protection ) continue to treat showcasing as a valid activity in B or Visa Waiver status. In the meantime, SXSW remains confident that the vast majority of consular officers and CBP officials understand and respect the need for, and the principle of, showcasing at promotional events such as the official SXSW event.”