Improving the Visa Process for Foreign Guest Artists
What Is At Stake
Foreign guest artists engaged by U.S. arts-related organizations are required to obtain an O visa for individual foreign artists, or a P visa for groups of foreign artists, reciprocal exchange programs, and culturally unique artists. Artists and nonprofit arts organizations have confronted uncertainty in gaining approval for visa petitions due to lengthy and inconsistent processing times, inconsistent interpretation of statute and implementation of policies, expense, and unwarranted requests for further evidence.
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. Otherwise the American public may be denied the opportunity to experience international artistry and American artists scheduled to work alongside international guest artists may lose important employment opportunities. The bottom line is impacted for nonprofit arts groups that have a financial obligation to their audiences.
Comprehensive immigration reform provides an opportunity to make enduring improvements to the visa process, therefore we ask Congress to include enactment of the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision in any immigration reform effort. USCIS would be required to treat any arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to adjudicate within the 14-day statutory timeframe as a Premium Processing case (additional 15-day turn around), free of additional charge. The ARTS provision has strong bipartisan support and is included in the 2013 Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill.
See the 2015 Visa Issue Brief for background information and talking points about What's At Stake.
We urge Congress to:
- Enact the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, which will require USCIS to ensure timely processing for visa petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations. We urge USCIS to enforce current statutory requirements, which instruct them to process O and P arts visas in 14 days.
- How would it work? The ARTS provision would reduce total maximum processing times for O and P nonprofit artist visa petitions to under 30 days. Currently, USCIS provides Premium Processing within 15 calendar days for petitioners able to pay an extra $1,250 fee – which is unaffordable for most arts organizations. Under the ARTS Act, USCIS would be required to treat as a Premium Processing case—free of additional charge—any arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to process within the 14 days required in current law. The PAA is working with Congress, USCIS, and the Department of State to implement common sense administrative reforms to lower the visa processing times for foreign guest artists.
- Take steps, in cooperation with the Administration, to persuade USCIS to take ongoing immediate administrative action to improve the artist visa process.
Artist Visa Improvements Advance in Senate
On June 11, improvements to the U.S. visa process for international guest artists—called the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision—were introduced in the Senate by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The provision was a part of an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill that was under consideration in the U.S. Senate. As the Senate began debate of comprehensive immigration reform, the PAA joined a coordinated effort by a broad array of national arts organizations supporting improvements to the visa process.On June 20, the ARTS provision was wrapped into a broader package of amendments to the comprehensive immigration reform bill. On June 27, the Senate passed the bill with the ARTS provision included. The immigration bill will next be sent to the House of Representatives.
Proof of Visa Goes Paperless
The paper card issued to foreign working artists upon arrival to the U.S. is going electronic. U.S. Customs and Border protection has announced that beginning April 30 and throughout mid-May, issuance of paper I-94 cards will be phased out at U.S. airports. Verification of an individual’s visa status and the length of the approved stay will be accessible online. The new site will be up and running as of April 30. While information about a visitor’s visa classification will be stamped into his/her passport and be accessible electronically, the I-94 remains the most important form of legal documentation for visa holders upon arrival in the U.S. It is advised to print a hard copy. Learn more about this new development on ArtistsfromAbroad.org.