League of American Orchestras Newsletter
USCIS Promises Major Improvements to the Visa Process
Washington, D.C. – Senior officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) yesterday promised public stakeholders that processing times for regularly-filed artist visa petitions will not exceed 14 days. The agency also promised that significant improvements to the quality of artist visa processing will soon 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 traveling to the United States for performances.
These commitments come in response to requests from the nonprofit performing arts community and following significant intervention by leaders in the House, Senate, and the White House Domestic Policy Council. The League has been advocating for improvements in partnership with national colleagues in the Performing Arts Visa Working Group: American Federation of Musicians, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Dance/USA, North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents, OPERA America, Performing Arts Alliance, and Theatre Communications Group, and the full range of national arts organizations co-sponsoring annual Arts Advocacy Day policy requests.
14-Day Regular Processing Promised
According to the USCIS, both the California and Vermont visa processing centers are currently processing regularly filed O and P visa petitions (without the $1,000 Premium Processing fee) within an average of 14 days. Since 2001, regular processing times have varied wildly – ranging up to 120 days for some petitions, despite a requirement in law to process O and P petitions within 14 days. USCIS now says they will strive to honor that 14-day requirement.
While this is a highly encouraging development, petitioners should continue to file visa petitions as early as possible and carefully track the processing times for their petitions. If processing times exceed 14 days, petitioners are advised to contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1–800-375–5283. Given the inconsistent record of processing times, and the frequently ineffective response from the Customer Service Center, please track your visa’s processing time and report the results to the League in our new online data collector. The League and our fellow national performing arts service organizations will be closely monitoring trends in processing times and the information you provide will help us ensure that USCIS fulfills its promise.