USCIS Multi-Venue Petition Process Update

December 2009

Arts organizations can once again file a single visa petition for artists engaged for performances at multiple venues in the United States. In response to concerns expressed by the national performing arts community, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reinstated the ability of a petitioner to file a single petition for artists coming to the U.S. for an itinerary of events with multiple arts organizations. Over the past two months, the Performing Arts Visa Working Group communicated with top officials at USCIS, on the Hill, and in the White House to urge a return to this practice, which is more efficient and affordable than submitting multiple visa requests for a single itinerary of performance events.

In October, USCIS issued a memo revoking the ability of a U.S.-based employer to file a single petition for artists coming to the U.S. for an itinerary of events with multiple arts organizations - unless the petitioner is “in business as an agent.” A November 20, 2009 memo now directs the USCIS service centers to accept multi-venue petitions filed by organizations that act as an agent only for the purpose of submitting a visa petition.

When seeking visa approval for an itinerary involving multiple employers or venues, the petitioner does not have to demonstrate that it normally serves as “an agent” outside of the petition process. Instead, USCIS indicates that petitioners can include a statement, signed by the various venues or employers, establishing that the petitioner is authorized to act as agent for the limited purpose of filing the petition with USCIS. We’ve posted on the Artists from Abroad website a sample form that petitioners should consider including when applying for a single visa approval on behalf of multiple venues or employers.

If an artist plans to travel to the U.S. for multiple engagements, and a single U.S. organization is submitting the visa petition, the entire petition must be carefully assembled to satisfy all USCIS requirements. Since the November memo was issued, we’ve been in communication with USCIS to seek further clarity on the petition requirements.

The Performing Arts Visa Working Group continues to seek improvements that will make the artist visa process more efficient, affordable, and reliable. These efforts are carried out in close coordination with a network of national arts organizations, including Dance/USA, American Federation of Musicians, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, League of American Orchestras, North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents, OPERA America, the Performing Arts Alliance and Theatre Communications Group.

A November 20, 2009 memo, issued by USCIS, as well as an important sample form can be found on line. Additional updated guidance prepared under the advisement of attorney Jonathan Ginsburg of FTM Arts Law, including more about how to file a visa petition, is now available on the Artists from Abroad website.

Please stay in touch with TCG to report your experiences with the artist visa process. Examples of theatre encounters with USCIS policies are essential to our ability to advocate for improvements to the visa process. How quickly was your most recent visa petition processed? Any difficulties? We ask that you please contact Laurie Baskin, director of research, policy & collective action at TCG, and keep us informed of how the visa process is impacting your theatre’s ability to engage foreign guest artists.

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