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Are You Breaking the Law?

Cuffs ansd Paper

Dance Workshops with Foreign Nationals

by Miles Copeland
posted September 11, 2009

With the added sensitivity of more Americans unemployed and the ongoing furor over illegal aliens, it stands to reason that the US immigration authorities, not to mention the Internal Revenue Service, are becoming increasingly active in spotting people coming into the country saying they are only visiting and then actually working.   In the world of Bellydance there have been a number of foreign teachers who have entered under the guise of tourists but then teach.  Others have quite rightly taken the time or their sponsors have taken the time to get proper work permits.   

Then there is the issue of tax.  United States law states that unless you have a U.S. Taxpayer ID number or a Social Security Number the employer (sponsor) is obligated to deduct 30% withholding tax from the teachers fee PLUS local state withholding if there is one.  In California this is an additional 7% withholding. 

It is the sponsor’s obligation to deduct this; if it is not deducted and the full fee paid to the foreign teacher and discovered several years later in an audit or investigation, the sponsor will be forced to pay the taxes then and may even be fined.

In speaking to a foreign teacher recently who was planning a US workshop tour for which I would promote a Los Angeles engagement, when work permit and tax were mentioned it came as complete news to the teacher as something that had never come up before.  The teacher in question had entered the country previously declaring that it was a personal visit and promotional only, then given paid workshops.  In other words she had lied to immigration, breaking US Law AND presumably no tax was paid so both she and the sponsor put themselves at risk.  If discovered the teacher would have been deported immediately and very likely have had great difficulty EVER getting back into the U.S. 

U.S. immigration can take a real attitude when they want to.  Just ask the many would-be models who were stopped by New York immigration authorities who suspectied they were not tourists but were seeking work as models and sent back on the next plane.  Of course a 6-foot beautiful young girl who looks like a model is easy to spot for an immigration officer but these days they are all getting tougher on everyone remotely suspicious.  We have all heard about the laws against employers employing illegal aliens.  These would apply to employing a foreign national teacher who is here teaching without a work permit, or green card. 

 When the BDSS employs a foreign national we always take the time to get work permits.  We cannot take the risk either for ourselves or for the dancer to not do this.  Interestingly, Saphira, the person who does this for us, is herself a bellydancer who runs a successful bellydance school in the Washington, D.C. area. The cost runs $3,000-$3,500 for each application.

I would advise any foreign teacher to make sure her U.S. sponsor secures a work permit AND deals with the tax.

 A contract should state that "any and all taxes local and Federal are the sole responsibility of the sponsor".  Of course the fees charged by the teacher must take into consideration the cost of the visa and the withholding tax that the sponsor will have to pay.  It is a dangerous option for both teacher and sponsor for a teacher to come into the United States, especially now, to teach workshops and lie to US immigration saying that you are just a tourist.  You may have gotten away with it in the past but the timing now is not in your favor and the risk is just too great.

more info: Saphira@saffrondance.com for anyone interested. 

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