Multiple Venue Petitions
When an artist prepares to travel to the United States for an itinerary of engagements at multiple venues, one employer (one venue) traditionally has been able to file a single, comprehensive visa petition including all employers (venues) in the itinerary.
Contradicting nearly 20 years of established practice, on October 7, 2009, the USCIS announced a new policy 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 petitioning employer is “in business as an agent.”
In response to concerns expressed by the national performing arts community, the 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. A November 20, 2009 USCIS memo offers some clarification for petitioners. While several questions remain unanswered, we offer the following guidance to immediately assist petitioners:
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 petition must be carefully assembled to satisfy new USCIS requirements. The petitioner does not have to demonstrate that it normally serves as “an agent” outside of the petition process. Instead, per USCIS, a statement signed by the various venues included in the petition may establish that the petitioner is authorized to act as agent for the limited purpose of filing the petition with USCIS. The artist will also need to complete a similar form for a petition that involves multiple employers. We have crafted sample forms that lead petitioners should consider including:
Form: Appointment of Agent by Employer (must be completed by each additional employer and must be a separate document, not part of a contract or other material)
In addition, USCIS requests the following evidence:
• A complete itinerary of the event or events, specifying the dates of each service or engagement, the names and addresses of the actual employers, and the names and addresses of the establishments, venues, or locations where the services will be performed.
• The contracts between the employers and the beneficiary.
• If a written contract does not exist, an explanation of the terms and conditions of the employment.
USCIS warns that multiple-employer petitions filed by any petitioner that does not establish that it has been appointed to file the petition will be approved only for the period of time covering the petitioner’s direct employment of the artist.
The national performing arts community continues to press for clarity regarding the documentation required to accompany petitions. In the meantime, following the guidance above may prevent petition rejections or time-consuming re-filing for engagements not included in a truncated petition approval.
If an itinerary with multiple venues is involved, the itinerary should list confirmed dates (with or without contracts), dates under negotiation, dates in which presenters have expressed an interest, and even projected dates based on past experience and relationships. The attached documentation may include signed contracts, unsigned contracts, draft contracts, letters of intent, supporting emails, and any other means of documenting that a given date may occur. Many petitioners routinely add a few extra days to the end of the requested classification period to accommodate the unexpected or to enable the artist to wind down. The ability of any type of petitioner to proffer such an itinerary to USCIS is an additional incentive to cumulate all the information on a single petition, thus increasing the chances of a longer approval period. As noted in our section on Classification Periods, gaps of more than 45 to 60 days raise concerns and it is best to avoid lengthy gaps when possible, or to fully document the activity that will take place outside of the U.S. during any lengthy gap.
When submitting an itinerary-based petition, be sure to use our sample cover letter, which includes language clarifying that additional engagements may be added. Also, remember to check the service center jurisdiction guidance on employment in more than one location to determine whether to file at the California or Vermont Service Center.