The League of American Orchestras (LAO) is very much concerned about plans of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to increase visa application fees for foreign artists, ensembles and orchestras. The international culturral exchange with the US could be severely jeopardized.
This is the Leagues message:
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed making it much more costly to apply to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) for the required visas for international guest artists, and is inviting the public to comment on its plans to increase most of its filing fees, including those for O and P artist visas applications filed by orchestras and other nonprofit arts organizations nationwide.
No date has been announced for when the following proposed changes would be implemented:
- Filing fees for regularly-processed O visa petitions would increase from $460 to as much as $715 per petition.
- Filing fees for regularly-processed P visa petitions would increase from $460 to as much as $705 per petition.
- The total number of individuals on a single petition would be capped at 25, multiplying the increased cost by requiring numerous petitions for larger ensembles, such as visiting orchestras. For example, an orchestra comprising 110 musicians plus a handful of accompanying support staff would require 6 visa petitions rather than 2.
- The Premium Processing Service (unaffordable to most organizations at an additional cost of $1,440) would take longer if USCIS were to be allowed 15 federal working days to complete processing, compared to the current 15 calendar day timeline.
The League of American Orchestras has prepared detailed comments on behalf of orchestras in partnership with national nonprofit arts stakeholders, objecting not only to specific changes outlined in this proposal but also drawing attention to severe processing delays that have persisted since earlier this summer and a marked deterioration in customer service that endangers planned concerts and events.
What can you do?
Orchestras that have been experiencing problems and anticipate a significant impact on engaging international artists as a result of these proposals have an opportunity to voice concerns directly. Here are some tips for preparing your comments:
- Comments can be filed online through the Federal Register portal, by the deadline of December 30, 2019.
- It is extremely important that any comments be personalized, highlighting the economic, reputational, and cultural harm your organization and the community it serves will experience if new barriers to visa processing are implemented.
- Please send a copy of your comments to the League’s D.C. Advocacy office. We will leverage your comments in our ongoing efforts with policy leaders at USCIS and in Congress to improve the climate for international cultural activity.
- We also encourage you to share a copy of your comments with your U.S. Senators and House Representative.
- Consult the League’s dedicated website, www.artistsfromabroad.org, for background on current U.S. artist visa procedures.
- We object to the dramatic and disproportionate fee increase proposed for O and P visa petitions.
- Any fee increase must be accompanied by immediate and measurable improvements to the O and P artist visa process.
- The DHS proposal to lengthen the Premium Processing Service timeframe from 15 calendar days to 15 business days will diminish the service provided to petitioners, even as the cost of Premium Processing increases.
- Imposing a 25-beneficiary cap for arts ensembles unfairly multiplies costs for performing arts organizations and creates new risks for USCIS confusion and processing delays.
- USCIS must take steps to adequately inform petitioners and train USCIS personnel well in advance of implementing the fee increase schedule and related changes to the Form I-129.
- High costs, delays, and unpredictability in the visa process create high economic risks for U.S. nonprofit arts organizations, the local economies they support, and the local audiences they serve.
Orchestras in communities of all sizes engage international artists in advancement of their artistic missions, and the U.S. climate for international cultural exchange influences opportunities for U.S. ensembles to tour globally. The League will keep you informed as further policy developments unfold.”