Processing Times Generally
USCIS processing times for petitions filed using the standard processing system can vary dramatically. Please note that the processing times discussed below are purely for initial approval of the visa classification by USCIS and do NOT take into account the time needed: for the service center to print and mail the approval notice after approval is entered into the computer; for the petitioner (not the artist) to receive that approval notice (especially if regular mail is used); for petitioner then to transmit the approval notice to the artist abroad; and, crucially, for the artist then to apply for and receive the visa through consular processing.
Please see our sample timeline for complete details on the timing for each of these steps.
Since 2001, standard processing for O and P petitions has varied unpredictably from 30 days to more than 120 days, despite a requirement in law to process O and P petitions within 14 days. Following years of advocacy by major national performing arts organizations, a significant breakthrough occurred in July 2010 when the USCIS reported that both the California and Vermont visa processing centers were processing regularly filed O and P visa petitions (without the $1,000 Premium Processing fee) within an average of 14 days. USCIS now says they will strive to honor the statutory 14-day requirement. While this is a highly encouraging development, petitioners should continue to file visa petitions as early as possible and carefully track the processing times for their petitions. Petitioners have recently reported that processing times continue to vary considerably, from two weeks to 45 days and beyond. The USCIS's own web site has reported that the Vermont processing center is more than 6 weeks beyond its own two-week goal.
An I-129 petition may be filed up to one year in advance of the artist's initial performance. Plan to submit your petition as early as possible to leave time for the unexpected delays, request for evidence, or denial.