International Artist Visa Processing
Background on International Artist Visa Advocacy
Many U.S. nonprofit performing arts organizations partner with guest artists from abroad for performances and educational projects, creating enriching international cultural experiences in their communities. Petitioners often navigate an uncertain process for gaining approval for O and P visas to bring those artists to the United States. Difficulties include lengthy processing times, inconsistent interpretations of requirements, and unwarranted requests for further evidence.
In February 2016, the Arts Require Timely Service Act (ARTS) was reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill (S. 2510) would make the visa process more reliable and affordable. It would require that if a petition filed on or behalf of a U.S. nonprofit arts organization isn’t processed within the 14 days required by statute, USCIS would have to treat that petition as a Premium Processing case free of charge.
The nature of scheduling, booking, and confirming highly sought after guest soloists and performing groups requires that the timing of the visa process be efficient and reliable. PAA is working to raise awareness in Congress of the need for an improved visa process with the goal of the ARTS Act being signed into law.
For more talking points and background information, see the 2016 Artist Visa USA Issue Brief.
What We're Asking For
We urge Congress to:
Enact the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, S. 2510, which will require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to ensure timely processing of petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations.
Take steps, in cooperation with the Administration, to persuade USCIS to take ongoing immediate administrative action to improve the artist visa process.
Update on Travel Ban
On February 9, 2017, a federal appeals court denied the request by the Department of Justice to reinstate the travel ban for individuals using passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The American Immigration Lawyers Association reported that on February 3, 2017, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order on a nationwide basis related to the Executive Order. See Artists from Abroad for more information.
News on Travel Ban from Artists from Abroad
Artists from Abroad shares this update on President Trump’s recent executive order that affects screening, visa issuance, and admissions procedures for individuals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
“On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that immediately affects screening, visa issuance and admissions procedures for individuals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This order applies to anyone who holds a passport from any of these 7 designated countries, including dual citizens with passports from both a designated and a non-designated country. Those dual nationals holding U.S. citizenship remain able to re-enter the U.S., but they should expect additional scrutiny and delay on entry. Similarly, the Executive Order does NOT apply to people who merely traveled to designated countries, though travel to those countries also may cause additional questioning and delay on entry into the U.S. (more).
USCIS Raises Visa Filing Fees
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced it will increase the I-129 filing fee for a non-immigrant worker-which includes O and P artists visas-from $325 to $460. The new fee becomes effective on December 23, 2016. Earlier this summer, PAA joined a coalition of advocates objecting to a fee increase and calling for improvements to the O and P visa process.
Petitioners should plan for this increased cost for visa applications postmarked on and after December 23, 2016. The Premium Processing Service fee remains $1,225. For more information on fee increases, visit Artists from Abroad.
USCIS Proposes Fee Increase
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is considering an increase to the filing fee for an I-29 petition for O or P artists visas, making it more costly to apply for the required visas for foreign guest artists. The current fee is $325 and the proposed fee is $425. This proposed increase does not affect the Premium Processing Service fee.
The Performing Arts Visa Working Group, of which PAA is a member, submitted comments to USCIS opposing the steep fee increase and asking for improvements to the O and P visa process such as reduced processing times for petitions and improved reliability and consistency with petition adjudication. You can read the complete comments here.
Visa Policy Alert: ARTS Act Reintroduced in the Senate!
On Monday, February 8, the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act was reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill (S. 2510) would improve opportunities for international cultural activity by ensuring that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) processes artist visas within a reasonable timeframe.
Many U.S. nonprofit performing arts organizations partner with guest artists from abroad for performances and educational projects. Petitioners often navigate an uncertain process for gaining approval for O and P visas to bring those artists to the United States. Difficulties include lengthy processing times, inconsistent interpretations of requirements, and unwarranted requests for further evidence.
The ARTS Act introduced this week would make the visa process more reliable and affordable. It would require that if a petition filed on or behalf of a U.S. nonprofit arts organization isn’t processed within the 14 days required by statute, USCIS would have to treat that petition as a Premium Processing case free of charge.
The ARTS Act has a strong history of bipartisan support. It was most recently included as a provision in the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in June 2013. Your voice was vital then, and we need you to speak up for the arts again and ask your Senators to co-sponsor this bill!
Click the link below to write your Senators and take action on the ARTS Act!
Delays and Increased Security Measures in Visa Processing
Arts organizations that engage foreign guest artists should be aware of substantial processing delays at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service centers. Both service centers are reportedly taking a minimum of 8-10 weeks to process petitions, with Vermont taking even longer. Many organizations are opting to file via Premium Processing Service (PPS), so be advised that if you have engagements for foreign guest artists taking place before the spring, your safest bet may be to upgrade your petitions to PPS. Please see ArtistsfromAbroad.org for more information and additional resources.
Visa Processing Delays and Updates
U.S. arts organizations that engage foreign guest artists should be aware of processing delays for regularly-filed petitions. Many petitioners are experiencing a turnaround time of 6-8 weeks or more at the Vermont Service Center. Petitioners should plan accordingly and attempt to file as early as possible or to consider Premium Processing for their petitions.
In other news, petitioners should be aware that a new edition of the I-129 form to file for the O and P classifications was updated last month, and earlier in the year the I-907 form for Premium Processing Service was updated as well. Always download the latest forms from uscis.gov when filing a petition to engage a foreign guest artist and keep up with the latest news, tips, and templates at Artists from Abroad.
Outage at State Dept. Delays Visas
On June 19, the State Department reported a technical issue with the part of its visa processing system that performs security checks and identity verification. While this system is down, it is highly unlikely that visas will be issued.
The State Department reports that it is working on a variety of solutions to this problem, yet it does not have an estimated date for when this problem will be resolved. The Department has created an FAQs page to answer common questions. You can also visit Artists from Abroad for more information.
Looking for older information on this issue? Please visit the Archive