The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed making it much costlier to apply to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) for the required visas for international guest artists, including O and P artist visa applications filed by performing arts groups and other nonprofit arts organizations nationwide.
Any performing arts organization that has experienced problems and anticipates a significant impact on engaging international artists as a result of these proposals has the opportunity to voice concerns directly. Comments can be filed online through the Federal Register portal by the deadline of December 30, 2019.
Chorus America, along with our colleagues at the Performing Arts Alliance and a broad array of national arts stakeholders, has signed on to comments objecting not only to specific changes outlined in this proposal but also drawing attention to severe processing delays that have persisted since earlier this summer and a marked deterioration in customer service that endangers planned performances and events.
Additional Information from the Performing Arts Alliance
The following changes have been proposed (with no suggested implementation date):
- Filing fees for regularly processed O visa petitions would increase from $460 to as much as $715 per petition.
- Filing fees for regularly processed P visa petitions would increase from $460 to as much as $705 per petition.
- The total number of individuals on a single petition would be capped at 25, multiplying the increased cost by requiring numerous petitions for larger ensembles. For example, a performance group comprising 110 musicians, plus a handful of accompanying support staff, would require six visa petitions rather than two.
- The timing for Premium Processing Service (already unaffordable to most organizations at an additional cost of $1,440) would shift from 15 calendar days to 15 federal working days.
What Can You Do?
- Any performing arts organization that has experienced problems and anticipates a significant impact on engaging international artists as a result of these proposals has the opportunity to voice concerns directly. Here are some tips for preparing your comments:
- Comments can be filed online through the Federal Register portal by the deadline of December 30, 2019.
- It is extremely important that any comments be personalized, highlighting the economic, reputational and cultural harm your organization and the community it serves will experience if new barriers to visa processing are implemented.
- We also encourage you to share a copy of your comments with your U.S. senators and House representative.
- Artists from Abroad continues to provide updated guidance on hiring international artists.
- We object to the dramatic and disproportionate fee increases proposed for O and P visa petitions.
- Any fee increase must be accompanied by immediate and measurable improvements to the O and P artist visa process.
- The DHS proposal to lengthen the Premium Processing Service timeframe from 15 calendar days to 15 business days will diminish the service provided to petitioners, even as the cost of Premium Processing increases.
- Imposing a 25-beneficiary cap for arts ensembles unfairly multiplies costs for performing arts organizations and creates new risks for USCIS confusion and processing delays.
- USCIS must take steps to adequately inform petitioners and train USCIS personnel well in advance of implementing the fee increase schedule and related changes to the Form I-129.
- High costs, delays and unpredictability in the visa process create high economic risks for U.S. nonprofit arts organizations, the local economies they support and the local audiences they serve.
Performing arts organizations in communities of all sizes engage international artists in the advancement of their artistic missions, and the U.S. climate for international cultural exchange influences opportunities for U.S. ensembles to tour globally. The Performing Arts Alliance and our colleagues in the field continue to monitor the situation and will keep you informed as further policy developments unfold.