World Music - Part 2 of 4 - Visa. It's everywhere you want to be! (tm)

In part one, I gave a brief introduction to some of the work I do presenting artists from abroad. Here is where the fun begins: planning and paperwork!

About 6 months before (and NO sooner, unfortunately/legally!) the artist is scheduled to perform in your community, you need to ensure that the visa petition is in process. If you are lucky enough to have a performer with an American manager/agent, they are likely handling this for the artist's entire U.S. tour.

If the artist's management agency is located abroad and/or you are the only American organization presenting said performer/ensemble, you will need to submit the visa petition(s) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for work-related O or P classification visas. The classes are as follows:

  • O-1: Persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, athletics, business, education or science

  • O-2: Essential support personnel of O-1 visa holders (accompanists, coaches, tour manager, lighting designer, etc.)

  • P-1: Athletes, entertainment groups/ensembles and their support personnel

  • P-3: Artists or Entertainers in a culturally unique program
Filing a petition takes planning. Just take a look at the USCIS's checklist - down to exactly how you must hole-punch the paper. The I-129 petition requires documentation of the artists' "extraordinary ability", copies of contracts from other U.S. presenters, all of the performer's passport biographical information, tour itineraries, selections from a press kit or documentation of an award of international merit, and lastly, a union consultation. It can take weeks to assemble all of the proper documents, but remember it also takes weeks or months for the petition to actually be processed and hopefully approved.

Let's say we actually get the petition and all documentation in order in a fairly timely fashion. We then send the petition(s) off to the
Vermont Service Center. This is a fairly recent development. You used to send the I-129 to your region's processing center, but due to extreme backloads in certain centers (CA had a 180 day backlog - and remember, you cannot apply more than 180 days in advance!!) , all O & P's are now sent just to Vermont, since this center notoriously had the best processing times and customer service. However - this now means YOUR petition is competing for processing with every other O & P in the nation (over 44,000 last year!) - including those that have paid for "premium processing." So you can imaging that things have slowed a little.

Now, did I mention that...
  1. An "ensemble" or "culturally-significant" performance can be filed under a single P visa petition - BUT if you have, say, a vocalist (O-1B visa) who travels with her accompanist (O-2) and a vocal coach or tour manager (O-2) you actually need to complete three separate petitions
  2. Oh - and the cost. The I-129 carries a $190 processing fee PER petition, AND you also have to pay usually $200 for each labor consultation. If you don't complete the petition yourself, then you're also looking at paying an immigration firm as well.
  3. AND - if you have not done adequate planning, book the event in a short-time frame, or hit a filing snag - you'll likely have to upgrade your petition to Premium Processing - which guarantees processing in 15 days or less, for the minor cost of $1,000 per petition.
  4. And lastly, if any of the artists are male applicants between 16-45 years old and/OR nationals of the 7 designated "state sponsors of terrorism" (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) they must also complete a DS-157 form and possibly be subject to additional scrutiny.

If all goes well, you should receive a I-797 Approval Notice to forward to the performer. THEN the artist him/herself must complete a DS-156 form, and schedule a visit (around their busy world-wide touring schedule!) at an appropriate U.S. Consulate abroad for an interview, fingerprinting and the actual processing of the new machine-readable visa (pic. above) itself. The artist also has to pay a $100 application fee at this time.

If everything up until this point goes well - don't worry - there are still a few stops along the way where it can all derail in an instant! But I'll cover PFIs, POEs, I-94s and border posts in Part 4 - When in Rome, NY. Until then - enjoy the next installment : Part 3 - Taxation without Representation.

For more information, please visit Artists from Abroad.

Lady Liberty image Copyright © 2005/2006 American Symphony Orchestra League/Association of Performing Arts Presenters

Updated - cleaned up bad code!


Annmarie said...

good lord, sweetie, how in the world do you find the time to plan ANYTHING?!?! This is more complicated than rocket science! <3

MapleMama said...

All 4 "World Music" installments:

World Music: Part 1 of 4 - Introduction

World Music - Part 2 of 4 - Visa. It's everywhere you want to be! (tm)

World Music - Part 3 of 4. Taxation without Representation"

World Music: Part 4 of 4 - When in Rome,...NY