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3 Keys to Hiring Foreign Talent for Commercials

Talent payments represent a critical aspect of TV and video advertising and as campaigns and brands become more global, it’s important for advertisers to be aware of the specific regulations regarding foreign talent. Hiring talent from foreign countries in commercial productions taking place in the US, requires adherence to US laws regarding documentation, tracking and compensation. Before your agency or brand contemplates working with foreign talent for your next project, here are a few simple best practices to keep in mind:

Get the right documentation
Working with foreign talent tends to be more complex than domestic talent. All foreign performers will need to provide a copy of their passport, a project-specific work visa, a tax identification number, completed I-9 form, and either W8-BEN or W8-BEN-E (if the performer is incorporated). Remember that obtaining expedited visas for foreign talent often takes at least four weeks, so be sure to plan ahead. The same is true when filming foreign citizens for “man on the street” projects. In order to process payment for those individuals, proper documentation is required.

Don’t assume you’re covered just by paying a talent agency
Understanding the very specific requirements is essential. Federal immigration and tax laws cannot be avoided by paying the talent’s agent or agency. Like individuals, foreign corporations are also subject to Federal taxation and withholding.

If necessary, call in a professional for help
A Talent & Rights management specialist like Extreme Reach can help ensure that compensation and documentation issues are addressed and can also automate the talent compliance process to avoid unforeseen headaches. This includes paying performers based on US tax law and any existing tax treaty relevant to the performer’s home country. For more complicated questions, these experts can also put clients in touch with attorneys that specialize in obtaining special talent visas.

Talent and Rights management of performers in commercials is a complex area that can be especially tricky when it comes to foreign performers. With the right guidance and attention to detail, productions can move seamlessly. As today’s advertising industry becomes increasingly global in scope, getting this piece of commercial production right is critical. Bringing in an expert is key to avoiding unnecessary problems down the road.