NON-IMMIGRANT VISA SERVICE
GAMI/Simonds has been filing non-immigrant worker visas on behalf of performing artists and companies since 1985 - from soloists to companies with 60+ personnel and support crews.
In today’s world with its increasing challenges we strive to make the process as painless as possible and present each case so that it has the best chance of success. A major key to success is to plan well in advance. This reduces stress, lowers cost and allows time for the unexpected.
Each case is unique and requires its own strategy for success. The rule of thumb is that the USCIS officer assigned the case has zero knowledge of the performing arts. Some will adhere to the letter the required qualifications, while others are less stringent. Instances abound of an officer's ignorance and lack of knowledge that cause unnecessary delays. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
At the outset of a case we provide a detailed list of the required materials and their formats along with various sample documents tailored specifically for the artist based on our preliminary discussions. The petition(s) is then created (typically 90-120 pages) and submitted to the appropriate labor union(s) for the required labor consultation letter(s) and then submitted to USCIS for the I-797 Approval Notice(s). GAMI/Simonds provides guidance with the consulate procedure that is required following receipt of the I-797 Approval Notice that GAMI/Simonds petitions USCIS for. The exception are Canadian citizens for whom the I-797 Approval Notice and a valid passport is all that is required to enter and perform in the U.S.
FOR AN OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS:and downlaods
WORDS TO THE WISE...updates
The ONLY classifications for performing artists are O (individuals) and P (groups of 2 or more).
Artists cannot perform in the U.S. with only a B-1/B-2 visa or in ESTA status regardless of whether or not the artist earns a fee, tickets are sold, the performance is to benefit orphans and widows, etc. Artists who enter either with a B-1/B-2 visa or in ESTA status entry are considered "visitors/tourists." However, there is a very narrow exception whereby artists performing at a "legitimate" booking conference or audition are legally eligible to do so in ESTA status (or with only a B-1/B-2 visa if they are not eligible for ESTA), provided the booking conference or audition is (a) closed to the public (which means the performance is restricted to producers, promoters, agents, managers, or people who may actually engage the artists); (b) no tickets are sold; (c) no fees are paid to the artist (other than actual, itemized expenses); (d) and the artist does not intend to perform anywhere else or under any other circumstances whilst in the U.S.
If caught at the border entering with a B-1/B-2 visa or ESTA for the purposes of public performances, unless you get a CBP officer that is either ignorant of the statutes (not likely) or you actually have a case for your B1/B2 or ESTA you will be denied entry and put on the next flight back and barred from the US for a minimum of 5 years and a 6 month wait thereafter in applying for a visa – may even get to spend 48 hours in a jail at the airport – oh what fun! Note that CBP officers are very savvy when it comes to quickly googling someone’s name and lo and behold state: “I see you are performing at The Crossroads tomorrow night”.
So, if attempting to legally enter with a B1/B2, ESTA for a legitimate booking conference or audition, be prepared to argue legal nuances whilst standing in a crowded immigration hall.
Download: Visa Classifications
Premium Processing Increase
As of October 1, 2018 the fee for Premium Processing Service will increase from $1,225.00 per petition to $1,410.00 per petition.
How early? Allow 4 months to gather materials for the petitioner to create petition(s), submit to labor union(s) for required labor union consultation letter and then to USCIS and allow for possible Request for Evidence (RFE) and consulate procedure. Regarding RFE see next item - DENIAL BEFORE RFE
Currently USCIS is adjudicating Regular Processed petitions in 40-60 days. With PPS they must adjudicate in 15 calendar days but it’s a stiff price to pay and not necessary if you plan ahead.
Adjudication means either a) Approval, b) Request for Evidence or c) Denial. Obviously, one wants “a”, but one must leave enough time to reply to “b”. As to “c” – you don’t fight a denial – you reapply and along with everything else the petitioner must address the denial and why feel it was unwarranted.So folks….if you are planning a tour or performance in the USA, choose your petitioner and get the process started as soon as a USA tour or performance is evident.
Denial before an RFE
As of September 11, 2018 those reviewing cases at the service centers will have “full discretion” to deny visa petitions without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE). This is a drastic departure from their practice of many years wherein they would issue an RFE before issuing a Denial thus giving the petitioner the opportunity to respond and hopefully still obtain an approval.
Now, more than ever, petitioners must be extra diligent in documenting the case for the artist. There’s zero tolerance for innocent mistakes or cases where an RFE is issued because the adjudicator didn’t read the petition. I have had my share of RFE wherein my reply is “please see Addendum B, page 20 of petition for ……….. “ And, do not fall into the trap of submitting a “cookie-cutter” petition – it doesn’t exist – each one is unique regardless of the stature of the artist. Never make assumptions, never second guess.
Extensions of stay
As of June 28, 2018 if an adjudicator is reviewing a petition for an extension of stay for an artist under their current status or a change in status thinks the extension will be denied, they may issue a notice to appear before an immigration judge for all beneficiaries in the petition whose status expires while the petition is pending. Bottom line is do not file for an extension of stay if there is not enough time for an approval before the artist’s current status expires. If this is not possible have the artist leave the U.S. and file a new petition for new work as usual.