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Lloyd D

Shooting in the US; are we allowed?

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5 hours ago, Lloyd D said:

I'm UK based and It's my intention to travel to the US a couple of times a year for 3-4 weeks at a time to shoot lifestyle/business type stock.

 

I've already made a couple of successful trips but after a conversation I had recently I'm a bit concerned about making sure I'm not breaking any rules in the US. 

 

When I've been through US customs before I've not been questioned so haven't had to explain myself but I would like to be up front with the border guards. 

 

Does anybody 'know' what the rules are in this situation? i.e. short trip to carry out commercial photography but not for sale in the States and not being employed as such by a US company. Also, I use local models who I pay an hourly rate, would that be a problem?

 

Perhaps somebody knows where I might enquiry as far as the US government goes, to get accurate info

 

thanks in advance!

 

Lloyd

Hi Lloyd

You could well have a problem shooting in the US if like you say you are using models (paid or unpaid) I'm not sure what equipment you will be using but hopefully you have insurance, one accident here can be very expensive. What I think will be your biggest problem these days is City/business permits. Try setting up a tripod on the street in Hollywood and see what happens? More and more cities require a business license and a permit. Here is a link to one of the local city in So Cal https://petapixel.com/2017/06/09/laguna-beach-requires-100-permit-kind-photo-shoot-public/ (Laguna permit commercial or non commercial) I'm pretty sure Laguna won't enforce  the non commercial but the fact they have it in their back pocket if you try to tell them the model is your daughter tells you they are being serious.  It will all depend on your location for your shoot. 

 

Be lucky

 

Shergar

 

Edited by Shergar
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It really depends on where you're going and exactly what you intend to do. If you're just walking around with a handheld camera in public space,  casually photographing your model, then it probably won't be an issue. However, if you're shooting in New York City and plan to use a tripod, lighting and an assistant, it can be much more complicated. Parks and other places sometimes require a permit.

 

Here are some guidelines from The Mayor's Office of Film TV and Broadcasting. 

http://www1.nyc.gov/site/mome/permits/when-permit-required.page

 

You probably don't have to worry about paying models as long as the total amount is less than $600. Any more than that and it's much more complicated. Technically, you're probably supposed to issue a 1099 tax for the model and get a Tax Identification Number from IRS for yourself.

 

Best thing to do is draw up an itinerary of what and where you want to go, double check with any governing authorities or agencies, and work from there.

Edited by fotoDogue
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Where it's necessary I would apply for permits and permissions etc although I rarely shoot on a tripod and out of doors use a reflector rather than lighting.

 

The article that @Stockfotoart found is interesting and is probably most relevant to what I'm doing:

 

what seems more important reads here:

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/media.html

 

it says

Travel Purposes for which a Visitor Visa Can Be Used Instead of a Media Visa – Examples:

Take still photographs, provided you receive no income from a U.S. source.

 

That seems to give me some 'cover' for my situation.

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My wife spent an hour being interrogated by a border/immigration Officer when she admitted that she filled in one of my work sheets whilst she was with me as a visitor to the USA (I had a permit to work, non photography related).
 

When she replied to his question "What do you do whilst our husband is working?" with "I sometimes fill in his work sheet" (one piece of paper), it escalated immediately to...

 

"So, you work in the USA?"

 

The guy was a bully with a gun, and the outcome was positive, BUT, be careful what you say AT immigration if you are not 100% sure about your actual status in the USA.

As has been suggested... contact the Embassy, and let us know the outcome.

Edited by mickfly
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Maybe I miss something but how many billions of USA images are for sale taken from non USA citizen while on holidays? I am not a pro photographer but I never thought that before entering in USA in the past. This imply as well if I want to travel to any country in the world?

 

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7 hours ago, Lloyd D said:

Where it's necessary I would apply for permits and permissions etc although I rarely shoot on a tripod and out of doors use a reflector rather than lighting.

 

The article that @Stockfotoart found is interesting and is probably most relevant to what I'm doing:

 

what seems more important reads here:

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/media.html

 

it says

Travel Purposes for which a Visitor Visa Can Be Used Instead of a Media Visa – Examples:

Take still photographs, provided you receive no income from a U.S. source.

 

That seems to give me some 'cover' for my situation.

The problem applying for permission and permits is they may well ask for a business license and or a social security number . You can't get a business license without a SS#. In Laguna Beach they have a department out looking for people walking their dogs on the beach and photographers with lights and reflectors. They know tourist don't carry reflectors with them, The problem is if one of these guys decides he wants to be a *ick you could be into all kinds of problems working in the US without some kind of work permit. Things  have changed in the good old USofA. Sorry I can't be a little more positive .

 

Shergar

 

 

Edited by Shergar
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31 minutes ago, Shergar said:

The problem applying for permission and permits is they may well ask for a business license and or a social security number . You can't get a business license without a SS#. In Laguna Beach they have a department out looking for people walking their dogs on the beach and photographers with lights and reflectors. They know tourist don't carry reflectors with them, The problem is if one of these guys decides he wants to be a *ick you could be into all kinds of problems working in the US without some kind of work permit. Things  have changed in the good old USofA. Sorry I can't be a little more positive .

 

Shergar

 

 

 

Part of the problem is we have 50 states where local laws and attitudes vary. As a New Yorker I would say they have absolutely no right to ask you for a Social Security number, it's personal information and is only supposed to be used for tax purposes, but it's possible some areas may overstep the bounds. Officials should simply ask whether you have a permit or not, ad if you don't have one, ask you to leave.

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9 minutes ago, fotoDogue said:

 

Part of the problem is we have 50 states where local laws and attitudes vary. As a New Yorker I would say they have absolutely no right to ask you for a Social Security number, it's personal information and is only supposed to be used for tax purposes, but it's possible some areas may overstep the bounds. Officials should simply ask whether you have a permit or not, ad if you don't have one, ask you to leave.

My point was that he would need a SS# for the paperwork . Without that anyone from anywhere could apply for a business license or city permit in the USA.  right?

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1 hour ago, Shergar said:

My point was that he would need a SS# for the paperwork . Without that anyone from anywhere could apply for a business license or city permit in the USA.  right?

 

 

Offhand I would say no but it may be different in California. Who would expect a non resident to have a Social Security Number? I believe non-residents are issued Tax Identification Numbers but those are only used for tax purposes. I'm not aware that permits are restricted to Residents, or US Citizens only. Here in New York we have plenty of people from elsewhere filming and doing commercial photography all over the City.... but in New York individual photographers aren't required to have business certificates unless they're doing business in the City under a different name.

 

Most likely, all someone would need would be the insurance information, and some form of official ID such as a driver's license, non-Driver's ID, or a passport, but I would highly recommend contacting each agency beforehand to find out exactly what they require.

 

EDIT: FWIW I just happen to have a business certificate from the City but the only time I've been asked to produce it was by the bank when I opened a business checking account. 

Edited by fotoDogue
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So you need state permission to trade as a photographer? Crikey.

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Hi

 

All I can say is don't tell them anything they don't need to know for you to comply.

 

A friend told them things that they can't find out and gets interrogated every time even when transiting gets held to last minuet .

 

Jon

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I travel across the US border from Canada all the time, and my advice is not tell them anything unless they ask you directly.  If they do ask about your gear, tell them you're an avid amateur photographer on holiday.  Unless you're bringing a case of studio lighting, I'd be very surprised if they questioned that.  I live in a resort town and I see tourists walking around town with Nikon D5's and other high end gear as that as a working pro I would never be able to afford.

 

As a pro, I get asked if I'm bringing equipment into the US for work, and my standard answer is that I'm just using the gear to take personal photos, and I've never had an issue with that.

 

Never, ever, lie to them at the border.  If you get found out, they can make your life really miserable in a very short period of time.

 

As mentioned above, a lot of cities and parks require location permits, and some cities might require you to get a business licence.  I've heard all kinds of stories about cops barging into wedding portrait sessions and demanding to see location permits, so check to make sure you're up on that.

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David, you are welcome in the States anytime; you seem to know how to cross a border. I used to be a travel photographer, and I've crossed many borders with 500 rolls of color film. I saw rules as things to be bent and laws as things to avoid. I was in it to win it. With digital stock, I've soften. And I don't travel anymore. ;)

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On 6/30/2017 at 07:50, Lloyd D said:

I'm UK based and It's my intention to travel to the US a couple of times a year for 3-4 weeks at a time to shoot lifestyle/business type stock.

 

I've already made a couple of successful trips but after a conversation I had recently I'm a bit concerned about making sure I'm not breaking any rules in the US. 

 

When I've been through US customs before I've not been questioned so haven't had to explain myself but I would like to be up front with the border guards. 

 

Does anybody 'know' what the rules are in this situation? i.e. short trip to carry out commercial photography but not for sale in the States and not being employed as such by a US company. Also, I use local models who I pay an hourly rate, would that be a problem?

 

Perhaps somebody knows where I might enquiry as far as the US government goes, to get accurate info

 

thanks in advance!

 

Lloyd

You didn't say where in the US you would shoot. Or exactly what kind of locations  It might be problematic in California and New York City, possibly Chicago, but there's a lot of country you could set up and nobody would blink an eye.   I did a family member's senior pictures in various locations in Oklahoma City.  I did not set up lights. I used natural lighting outdoors. 

Nobody observing would have known if she was a paid model or not. She was tall, beautiful, and makeup was good. I used a Nikon D800 and a tripod. There were several clothing changes.

Out of the 48 states, discounting Hawaii and Alaska, you could probably shoot in 45-46 of them. And even California and New York State off the beaten path.

Although I'm assuming you would want landmarks or else why come to the US for generic images that could be shot almost anywhere?

I agree with Edo. Do whatever you need to. If you plan on setting up lights, don't cross borders with them. Nobody will raise eyebrows at lights at the border if you have none, and if you rent them once you're here. And yes, many amateurs shoot with big honking cameras. 

Take a Fuji X-T2 and that won't be a problem, either! :D

Betty

Edited by Betty LaRue
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Thanks Betty 

 

I'm going to be shooting in Arizona initially but may look at Oregon too. I'm avoiding places like LA and NY precisely because I would anticipate more problems working in areas like that plus things like model costs would be much higher.

 

It sounds from reading posts above that my kit might not be all that 'ostentatious'; a D750, 3 lenses, 2x Nikon Speedlites and a few bits and pieces. It all goes into my carry on bag, a Tamrac rucksack

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No I wouldn't consider your kit to be ostentatious. I often walk around with a couple of Nikon bodies, and two or three lenses in New York. I only bring my Speedlight when I know I'm going to need it. It might draw a bit more attention elsewhere but it's not unusual to see photographers with that kind of gear in Manhattan. Not too long ago when I was across the river in Queens someone spotted my D610 and asked if I was a professional photographer or a tourist. Then he suggested some local sites I might want to visit.

 

If you're planning to shoot in Arizona there are a lot of National Parks, like the Grand Canyon, that may require a permit. I recently read that some National Parks have restrictions against shooting with artificial light at night. If you plan to shoot in any one of these you should check with the National Parks Service at https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/commercial-film-and-photo-permits.htm

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Looking at the Permit Application for the Grand Canyon National Park I see they do require either a Social Security Number or a Tax Identification Number, plus a valid credit card. If you intend to shoot at a National Park you should definitely call them in advance. You should be able to obtain a Tax Identification Number from IRS.gov but you'll need to do all the paperwork in advance.

 

https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/management/upload/10-932-App-for-SUP-Commercial-Filming-Still-Photography-Long-Form.pdf

 

Of course the easier, and cheaper, option would to stay within the guidelines for non-commercial photography.

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2 minutes ago, arterra said:

 

What happened to the "Land of the Free"? :huh:

 

Cheers,

Philippe

It's not the land of that sort of free.

OP, we've got some pretty decent national parks ourselves, and all actually free. Just avoid the National trust.

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Many of these rules have been in place all along but under the current administration they're supposed to be enforcing them more strictly. They're also cutting funds to the NPS (and possibly selling off some land) so I guess NPS needs to scrape ever cent they can get. Walls don't come cheap.

 

Photography rules seem to vary from one National Park to another and Arizona is a very conservative state. There are probably, at least, 20 or 30 more liberal states which may be more lenient, and aren't all fired up over immigration. 

 

Problem is, when you look at "Commercial Photography" permits they're geared more towards film companies who want to helicopter their Jeep onto slick rock, or some ad company who pays all production costs. They're really not geared towards individual photographers who only want to shoot some stock.

 

EDIT: Interesting comparison. I just checked the Appalachian Trail, which is another National Park, and their site doesn't even mention a permit.

Edited by fotoDogue

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26 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

How do you think by headscarf would go down at the border?

 

That all depends. If it's a Saudi headscarf they'll roll out the red carpet.

If it's a Syrian headscarf you might want to call the American Civil Liberties Union in advance so the resistance can greet you.

 

Of course this could change at any minute.

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1 hour ago, geogphotos said:

How do you think by headscarf would go down at the border?

 

Not too well I imagine. You might think of exchanging it for one of these. :D

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On 7/4/2017 at 04:38, Lloyd D said:

Thanks Betty 

 

I'm going to be shooting in Arizona initially but may look at Oregon too. I'm avoiding places like LA and NY precisely because I would anticipate more problems working in areas like that plus things like model costs would be much higher.

 

It sounds from reading posts above that my kit might not be all that 'ostentatious'; a D750, 3 lenses, 2x Nikon Speedlites and a few bits and pieces. It all goes into my carry on bag, a Tamrac rucksack

With your gear, you'll be just fine. There's a lot of suggestions that are over the top, here. It's just not that big f a deal!

 

From Oklahoma, middle USA,  I've shot in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, up and down California, Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, w. Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, N. Carolina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York State, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maine....the list goes on.

The only confrontations I ever had was shooting shorebirds in San Diego. Little did I know residents of the area were embroiled in a humongous lawsuit with the city, and I was mistaken for press. 

Then while out shooting a pump jack oil well site here in Oklahoma, the highway patrol checked me out to make sure I wasn't a terrorist, then told me of some other photo ops! Most of these people in the wide open states wouldn't think about work permits if a hammer hit them.

I'd be very surprised if you have trouble. With the exceptions of outliers every country can have, this still is the land of the free.

Betty

 

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On 09/07/2017 at 02:38, Betty LaRue said:

With your gear, you'll be just fine. There's a lot of suggestions that are over the top, here. It's just not that big f a deal!

 

From Oklahoma, middle USA,  I've shot in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, up and down California, Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, w. Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, N. Carolina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York State, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maine....the list goes on.

The only confrontations I ever had was shooting shorebirds in San Diego. Little did I know residents of the area were embroiled in a humongous lawsuit with the city, and I was mistaken for press. 

Then while out shooting a pump jack oil well site here in Oklahoma, the highway patrol checked me out to make sure I wasn't a terrorist, then told me of some other photo ops! Most of these people in the wide open states wouldn't think about work permits if a hammer hit them.

I'd be very surprised if you have trouble. With the exceptions of outliers every country can have, this still is the land of the free.

Betty

 

I refer to my earlier comment Betty. It is that big a deal at immigration if you enter the USA as s foreigner.

The officer will ask "what is the purpose of your visit?"

If you are entering on a visitor visa and give the wrong answer (even lightheartedly) you will open a can of worms.

 

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International borders are some of the scariest places on the planet. I feel a sense of trepidation whenever I cross one, even when returning home. Your rights are basically suspended when you cross a border. I once had a burly border guard grab my visa and stuff it in a drawer. When I asked for it back, he punched me out (literally). He was of course looking for a bribe. I won't say what country it was (not "the land of the free", though).

Edited by John Mitchell

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