An April 29 meeting with Minister for Education and Culture Myron Walwyn and British Virgin Islands band leaders. (Photo: GIS/Franklyn Skerritt)
ST THOMAS, USVI -- The governments of the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands have begun candid discussions to clarify the laws governing the musical exchange between the two territories.
On Thursday morning, BVI minister for education and culture Myron Walwyn led a delegation to St Thomas to meet with the US Customs and Border Protection Agency.
Additionally, the territories discussed the requirements for BVI bands travelling to the USVI to perform at various functions and events.
Thursday’s meeting follows the recent Inter-Virgin Islands Council Meeting held on May 8. During the meeting the ministry of education and culture made a presentation titled: ‘Virgin Islands’ musicians access to perform in the United States Virgin Islands’.
It was explained that both territories have a shared heritage that includes music, culture and history, which was highlighted during the 38th annual BVI/Friendship Day held in Tortola in June 2011 under the theme, ‘Celebrating the Music of the Virgin Islands’.
In the presentation, the ministry also spoke about the tradition of musical exchange between the two territories and the difficulties local bands started to experience about five years ago while entering the USVI. This included the long application process, the need for the P-3 visa, and the high cost associated with travel to Barbados by each individual band member to apply for the visa.
It was also explained that the BVI charges a $125 work permit fee for the entire band, an immigration fee of $25 for each band member and an Inland Revenue fee of five percent of the proceeds.
The ministry further explained that the BVI has a longstanding friendship which is expressed at the federal level and allows British Virgin Islanders to benefit from ease of travel, as well as the visa waiver agreement, which allows British Virgin Islanders to freely travel to the United States mainland.
This is the first time both sides have met to discuss the matter, following concerns raised when a number of local bands were denied admission to perform at ‘BVI Night’ during the St Thomas Carnival celebrations.