U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

The enforcement and service functions and responsibilities of the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) have transitioned to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In response to the continuing Visa processing delays by USCIS and The State Department, TCG, along with other arts service organizations, surveyed the field to identify specific policy problems and gather feedback on proposals to remedy the situation.

Action Alerts:

February, 2016: Visa Policy Alert: ARTS Act Reintroduced in the Senate!
On Monday, February 8, the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act was reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill (S. 2510) would improve opportunities for international cultural activity by ensuring that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) processes artist visas within a reasonable timeframe. Many U.S. nonprofit performing arts organizations partner with guest artists from abroad for performances and educational projects. Petitioners often navigate lengthy processing times, inconsistent interpretation of requirements, and unwarranted requests for further evidence when seeking O and P visas to bring those artists to the United States. The ARTS Act would make the visa process more reliable and affordable. It would require that a petition filed on or behalf of a U.S. nonprofit arts organization be processed within 14 days or be treated as a Premium Processing case, free of charge. The ARTS Act has a strong history of bipartisan support. It was most recently included as a provision in the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in June, 2013. Your voice was vital then, and we need you to speak up for the arts again and ask your Senators to co-sponsor this bill!
ACTION: Write your Senators and take action on the ARTS Act!

6/23/15: Outage at State Department Delays Visas
On June 19, the State Department reported a technical issue with the part of its visa processing system that performs security checks and identity verification. While this system is down, U.S. Consulates around the world are not able to issue visas. The State Department reports that it is working on a variety of solutions to this problem. However, it does not yet have an estimated date for resolution and does not expect a solution before next week. Once the system is back up, though, priority will be given to issuing visas for medical emergencies and humanitarian cases.
ACTION: Those affected by this situation are advised to monitor the U.S. Consulate and U.S. State Department websites daily. The State Department has created a FAQs page that also includes frequent status updates. You can also visit Artists from Abroad for more information.

2/19/14: TCG and the Performing Arts Visa Working Group Submits Comments on USCIS's Executive in Residence Program
Non-profit arts organizations can incur major reputational and financial ramifications due to visa-related artist cancellations. Following a teleconference that initiated USCIS’s performing arts executives in residence project and their new Ideas Community platform to request feedback on the project, the Performing Arts Visa Working Group collectively submitted comments. This platform launch unfortunately also follows a recent wave of unexpected processing delays for visas for artists from abroad.
ACTION: Be sure to apply early for any visas you might need! Also look for the most recent updates on how to get the best results for your applications on the Artists From Abroad website. You can also now read the coalition comments here.

News Alert! Success for the ARTS Act and Visas for Artists from Abroad!
We had an advocacy success this June 2013! The ARTS Act – Arts Require Timely Service – a visa provision – was included in the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that just passed the Senate. It would speed up processing of visas for artists from abroad and is something we have been advocating for since 2001. In order to become law, it would also have to pass in the House as well. Not-for-profit arts organizations and artists provide a public service and boost international diplomacy by presenting international artistry in performances, educational programs, and cultural events in American communities both large and small. With the improvements included in the ARTS provision, confidence in the U.S. visa process will continue to grow among U.S. arts organizations and foreign artists alike, greatly enhancing international cultural exchange. Learn more on the PAA website and sign up for Action Alerts!

6/24/13: Artist Visa Processing Issue Addressed in Senate Immigration Bill
Improvements to the U.S. visa process for international guest artists are now included in the comprehensive immigration reform package under consideration in the U.S. Senate.  Called The Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision, these improvements will require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to ensure timely processing for visa petitions filled by or on behalf of nonprofit arts-related organizations. The ARTS provision would improve the reliability of the visa process by reducing total maximum processing times for O and P nonprofit arts-related visa petitions to under 30 days. Currently, the law requires these petitions to be processed within 14 days of filing, but more often than not, the process takes longer than this. Under the ARTS provision, USCIS would be required to treat as a Premium Processing case any arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to process within the required 14-day period. This Premium Processing would waive the $1,250 fee usually assessed for this service—a fee which is unaffordable for most arts organizations. Our nonprofit arts organizations and artists boost international diplomacy by presenting foreign guest artists in performances and education events in our communities. 
ACTION: The Senate plans to complete action on its immigration bill by the end of this week, while House consideration begins to move forward.  Tell your legislators about the importance of global cultural exchange.

4/9/13: Improve Visa Process for Foreign Guest Artists
Arts Advocacy Day Action Alert
American nonprofit performing arts organizations provide and important public service by presenting foreign guest artists in performances, educational events, and cultural programs in communities across the country. Delays and inconsistencies by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have made it difficult in the past for international artists to obtain the visas required for entry into the United States. Nonprofit arts organizations confront uncertainty in gaining approval for visa petitions due to lengthy processing times, inconsistent interpretation of statute and implementation of policies, expense, and unwarranted requests for further evidence. 
ACTION: Global cultural exchange is important now more than ever! Tell your legislators about the importance of global cultural exchange.

Archived Visa Action Alerts here

Artists from Abroad

Arts organizations are faced with increasing challenges when bringing international artists into the United States. Recognizing these challenges, the American Symphony Orchestra League and Association of Performing Arts Presenters have consulted with nationally-recognized experts to create Artists from Abroad—the most complete and up-to-date online resource for foreign guest artists, their managers, and performing arts organizations. Visit their website at www.artistsfromabroad.org.