Artist Visa Improvements Advance in Senate

June 25, 2013

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! The Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision, which will require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to ensure timely processing for visa petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations, was originally introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) just over one week ago. Last night, the provision was wrapped into a broader package of amendments to the comprehensive immigration reform bill under Senate consideration.

American nonprofit arts organizations and artists – in communities large and small across our country – provide an important public service and boost international diplomacy by presenting foreign guest artists in performances and educational events. Only with consistent improvements over time, will confidence in the U.S. visa process continue to be re-built among U.S. organizations and foreign artists alike, greatly enhancing international cultural exchange.

How would it work?  The Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision has had strong bipartisan support in Congress and 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, USCIS provides Premium Processing within 15 calendar days for petitioners able to pay an extra $1,250 fee which is unaffordable for most arts organizations. Under the ARTS Act, USCIS would be required to treat as a Premium Processing case, free of additional charge, any arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to process within the 14 days required in current law. 

Thank you for your ongoing advocacy!  Since 2001, orchestras, the League, and our arts colleagues have urged Congress and USCIS to remove barriers to international cultural engagement by improving the historically burdensome and unpredictable O and P artist visa process. We are now working to ensure that the recent incremental improvements to the artist visa process are locked into law so that confidence in the U.S. artist visa process can be restored. Our policy work is carried out in coordination with the Performing Arts Visa Working Group, which includes the American Federation of Musicians, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Dance/USA, League of American Orchestras, North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents, OPERA America, Performing Arts Alliance, Theatre Communications Group, and our partners at The Recording Academy. As the Senate began debate of comprehensive immigration reform, the League initiated a coordinated effort by a broad array of national arts organizations supporting improvements to the visa process.

Next steps:  We are especially grateful to the many orchestra advocates who contacted key Senate offices in the past week to describe how improvements to the artist visa process will support access to international artistry both in the U.S. and abroad. Action on comprehensive immigration reform provides the opportunity to make enduring policy changes to ensure that the U.S. visa process for artists is reliable, efficient, and affordable. The Senate plans to complete action on its immigration bill by the end of this week, while House consideration begins to move forward. We will keep you informed of ongoing advocacy opportunities. In the meantime, visit our advocacy center to learn more.