Hawai‘i Island welcomes international productions! The Film Office is happy to connect you with resources that will help you navigate U.S. visa and immigration procedures.
The selection of a local production coordinator is key to successful production in the Hawaiian Islands. For international productions, especially those from Japan, it is important to use a production coordinator who is a member of the Hawai‘i International Film Association (HIFA). Like most local production coordinators and locations professionals, these HIFA coordinators are familiar with Hawai‘i locations, production resources and possess a thorough understanding of Hawai‘i’s film permitting requirements. In addition, HIFA member production coordinators are familiar with certain foreign language and cultural issues. They also possess a firm understanding of U.S. visa and immigration procedures, which are essential for all foreign productions. HIFA can provide a list of these production coordinators via phone at (808) 589-1991 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Foreign productions coming to Hawai‘i should be aware of the following issues:
All non-U.S. nationals must obtain the proper visa for their occupation and type of production:
Still photography: B-1 “business” visas are obtainable at the American Consulate in the production’s home country. Certain countries have a reciprocal “visa waiver program” with the United States that eliminates the need for the B-1. Application is done prior to arrival in Hawai‘i, with the “WB” or waiver business classification to be stamped at the port of entry.
News Reporting/Programming: Productions involved in news gathering may use the “I” visa which is available at the American Consulate located within their countries. An affidavit issued by a recognized media organization is required.
TV Commercials, TV Programming, Documentaries and Features: Either an “H-1”, “0” or “P” visa must be obtained for these types of productions. A “petitioner” (sponsor) based in the United States is needed and application must be done in the United States. The H-1, 0, and P visas may be obtained by a particular group or crew, provided that the group works together regularly as a unit.
The H-2B visa is for individuals as opposed to groups and is frequently used for commercials and features. Cast members and crew members actively engaged in technical and physical production, are required to have one of the visas outlined above. Other crew members such as advertising executives, client representatives, producers, and production managers may elect to use the B-1 visa or the visa waiver program.
In all cases, the local production coordinator will provide current information on visas and serve as a petitioner if needed. All productions and individuals should carry a letter of introduction from the local production coordinator to show to U.S. Immigration as they enter the United States.
Using a payroll service is one of the most important safeguards a foreign producer can take. Besides addressing U.S. labor and tax laws, the payroll service becomes the “employer-of-record” and relieves the producer and client of the many liabilities in the processing of payroll taxes, deductions, fringe benefits and any claims that may arise after the production is completed. Workers’ Compensation and Temporary Disabilities Insurance are two of the more important payroll deductions. With these safeguards in place, if a local employee is injured on the set, his or her medical expenses and days out of work are covered.
Three different types of insurance are available for production:
Medical (Travellers) Insurance: Issued by insurance companies to cover medical expenses for injuries incurred abroad. Many foreign crews obtain this prior to departing their home country.
General Liability (Business) Insurance: Possessed by most companies, including the local production coordinator, as part of their business, this insurance provides protection for the company and its clients while on the company’s premises or working on company business.
Producers’ Package Coverage: Many areas of coverage for a production are unique to the industry and are left out of the general liability policies. Items such as equipment rental loss coverage, negative and processing loss, and stunt and aircraft coverage are available as added policies.
The local production coordinator is familiar with these forms of insurance and should be able to advise the producer accordingly.
Whenever high-ticket equipment such as cameras are brought in for a specific production, it is best to acquire a “carnet” from the producer’s home country. A carnet is an instrument of agreement between trading nations that permits the temporary importation of expensive items without tariffs or duties provided that the same items leave the country intact. Shoots involving food products and textiles/clothing should check with the local production coordinator regarding the ever-changing regulations and tariffs on such items.