The ARTS Act
Under the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, the total processing times for O and P arts-related visa petitions would be reduced to a maximum of 45 days by requiring USCIS to treat as a Premium Processing case (15-day turn around), free of additional charge, any arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to adjudicate within 30 days.
The ARTS Act has strong, bipartisan support and has been scored a ―zero by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Key House and Senate Judiciary Committee members have signaled bipartisan support for improving the artist visa process, and a provision was included in the 2006 and 2007 comprehensive Senate immigration reform bills. The full House approved a stand-alone version of the measure, H.R. 1312, in April 2008, and the bill was reintroduced in both the House and Senate last year as H.R. 1785 and S.1409. On November 7, 2007 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a cost estimate for the ARTS Act, stating that the bill would have no significant cost to the federal government.
The proposed timeframe for processing O and P visas—the categories used by artists—is eminently reasonable and consistent with security concerns. Congress recognized the time-sensitive nature of arts events when writing the 1991 federal law regarding O and P visas, in which the USCIS is instructed to process O and P arts visas in 14 days. This mandate has never been implemented by USCIS.
Working with USCIS
APAP has been a leading representative for the performing arts industry on immigration issues for more than a decade. In collaboration and partnership with our colleagues in the PAVWG, we continue to work closely with USCIS on improving the process for managers, agents, lawyers and presenting organizations in obtaining foreign guest artist visas.
On May 13, 2010, APAP participated in a conference call with colleagues from the PAVWG, officials from the White House and USCIS to discuss the ongoing foreign guest artist visa issues.
On May 24, 2010, the PAVWG submitted these comments to USCIS regarding the validity period for the “O” visa category. These comments were in response to USCIS’ call for comments in response to their draft proposal memorandum on this policy. The memo is available here.
On July 20, 2010, APAP participated in an invitation-only stakeholders meeting with USCIS officials to discuss issues related to O&P visas and the RFE process. At that time, the agency promised that significant improvements to the quality of artist visa processing would be underway as the agency undergoes a major effort to revise its policy and training programs for the two service centers that process the O and P visas used by artists travelling to the United States for performances.
On September 24, USCIS issued a final rule regarding proposed fee increases for the adjudication of foreign guest artist visa petitions. In its ruling, the agency reiterated their commitment to improve the artist visa process and to reduce regular processing times to the 14-day timeframe.
Efforts Underway to Improve Quality of Process
In addition to streamlining processing times, USCIS says it has formed an internal performing arts visa working group and is taking immediate steps to address the spike in erroneous visa denials and requests for evidence received by U.S. arts organizations over the past year.
- New Policy Supports Complete Itinerary Approvals
- On July 20, USCIS released a final policy memorandum advising visa processing centers to approve O petitions for the length of the validity period requested where the law and regulations permit and clarified that there is no policy limiting the allowable gap between engagements in an itinerary. The memo reverses an informal policy adopted by the two processing centers that limited the allowable gap between engagements to 45 days. The nonprofit performing arts community is pleased with this positive development and has requested that the policy formally be applied to P petitions.
- RFE Project to Improve Visa Response
- In response to voluminous cases of erroneous visa denials and requests for evidence, the USCIS is revising the training and templates used in adjudicating O and P visa cases. Draft policy documents will be posted online for public comment, and the PAA will inform the performing arts community of opportunities to weigh in.
- Online Case Status
- Petitioners must rely on the USCIS web site for up-to-date information about the status of a visa petition in progress. USCIS reports that a new and improved case status site will soon be launched.
Should you need assistance with submitting visa petition applications and/or need a visa consultation letter for your visa petition request, please contact Emily Travis, Communications & Government Affairs Associate at email@example.com.