NEWS ARCHIVE 2011-2013
- USCIS Launches Website Improvements - (10/30/13)
- Happy Birthday to Artists from Abroad! - (10/16/13)
- Shutdown Impact on Visas for Foreign Guest Artists - (10/1/13)
- NEA Provides Webinars on Artist Visa Process - (8/13/13)
- NEA to Present Webinar on Consular Visa Process - (6/14/13)
- I-94 Cards Go Paperless - (4/11/13)
- New NCSC Hours; IATSE Change of Address - (03/26/13)
- Sequestration and the Arts - (03/07/13)
- Tips from the Sources: Q&A with USCIS and DOS - (10/04/12)
- CWA Changes and Clarifications Announced - (9/26/12)
- New P-1B Policy for Individuals - (8/9/12)
- Available Online! Free Artists from Abroad Webinar - (7/17/12)
- New ITIN Documentation Requirements - (7/2/12)
- Visa Consular Processing Fees Increase - (4/11/12)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today launched a redesigned website available in both English and Spanish. The website upgrades seek to provide customers with a simplified and user-friendly experience thanks to improved navigation menus, a tools section that helps customers complete certain electronic transactions, and a home page with a banner that rotates time-sensitive information and alerts as well as a larger search bar. Visa petitioners familiar with the layout of the previous home page may wish to note that the link to check on a case status has moved from the upper left corner to a more prominent position below the rotating banner.
Ten years ago, Artists from Abroad was launched as a website, based on a resource originally produced by the League of American Orchestras. Since going online, it has been continuously updated with the latest tips for navigating the visa and tax requirements for international guest artists. In the past year alone, visitors have come to the website from more than 150 countries, and the site is used by U.S. organizations nationwide to support international cultural activity. Does your organization engage international artists? If so, bookmark www.artistsfromabroad.org and add the News page to your RSS feed today, where you can find current policies, forms, fees, and other helpful tips for engaging international guest artists for performances in the United States. Happy ten years and counting, AFA!
U.S. petitioners seeking visas for foreign guest artists should plan for possible delays during the shutdown of the U.S. government, which began today. Obtaining a visa is a three part process, starting with approval of a petition by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), followed by processing of a visa application by the State Department at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, and completed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on inspection and admission to the U.S. If the shutdown is brief, here is what to expect:
o USCIS and Petitions: Because USCIS is a fee-based agency that, for the most part, does not depend on Congressional appropriations, USCIS has resources to continue processing visa petitions. However, given the strain of the government shutdown on overall infrastructure, delays are a real possibility. USCIS does not anticipate a disruption of visa processing at this time, but it will post notice of any office closures on its website.
o State Department and Visa Processing: Consular visa processing, too, is supported by fees, not appropriations. Many consular offices thus will continue conducting interviews and issuing visas, so long as their buildings can remain open. The longer the shutdown persists, the more likely it is that consular services will become unavailable. Visit the web site for a specific consulate to determine whether the location is in operation. One major unknown is the fate of any visa applications that might be delayed by "additional administrative processing," meaning security-related concerns. A number of other U.S. agencies are involved in the clearance process and their ability to continue visa-related clearance operations is unclear.
o Arrival in the U.S.: Customs and Border Protection officials are considered “essential” personnel. Entry to the U.S. for visa holders should not be interrupted.
This is what is known as of today, and the Artists from Abroad site will be updated as more information becomes available. When it comes to visas - as always, leave as much time as possible for the entire process to be completed. The longer the government shutdown remains in place, the more likely the process is to be delayed and disrupted.
The National Endowment for the Arts recently hosted two webinars on the visa process for engaging international artists, now available for viewing on-demand. The webinar featuring presenters from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), provides information to assist in preparing, submitting, and tracking the progress of employment-based petitions filed on behalf of foreign artists engaged for U.S. performances. The webinar featuring the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, focuses on consular visa processing, including requesting appointments, preparing the application form, and conducting visa interviews.
On June 19, 2013 from 3:00-4:00pm ET, the National Endowment for the Arts will offer the first of two webinars on the visa process for U.S. nonprofit organizations that engage international artists. This webinar, featuring a guest presenter from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, will focus on several aspects of the consular visa process from requesting the appointment, preparing the form, and the interview itself. Please register in advance here.
If you can’t attend the June 19 webinar, an archive will be available on the NEA's website in the webinar section. Please also mark your calendar for a second webinar to be held July 10, which will feature a guest presenter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The paper card issued to foreign working artists upon arrival to the U.S. is going electronic. U.S. Customs and Border protection has announced that, beginning April 30 and throughout mid-May, paper I-94 cards will be phased out and verification of an individual’s visa status and the length of their approved stay in the U.S. will be accessible online at www.cbp.gov/I94. The new site will be up and running on April 30. While information about a visitor’s visa classification will be stamped into their passport, the I-94 card remains the most important form of legal documentation for visa holders upon arrival in the U.S. Learn more about this new development.
As of March 22, 2013 the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) is no longer open on Saturdays, and beginning April 1, the NCSC will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, in all four time zones in the contiguous United States. As always, visa petitioners can check the status of their case 24 hours a day by visiting www.uscis.gov.
In other news, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), will have a new address effective March 27, 2013:
207 West 25th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Contact information for labor and non-labor consultations is available on a consolidated Consultation Contact list.
What do the messy debates in Washington over spending limits and across-the-board 5% cuts to domestic spending mean for foreign guest artists and the U.S. organizations that engage them? As ever, start the visa process as early as possible to brace for any staffing impact that might be felt in visa processing centers here in the U.S. and at consulates abroad. Remember to consult www.artistsfromabroad.org for any help you might need with the visa process.
Personnel from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently spoke with two representatives of national performing arts service organizations about the visa petition and consular interview processes. Claire Nicholson and Christopher Bentley of USCIS share their advice and observations with Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy at the League of American Orchestras, in A Conversation with USCIS, while Beth Finan from the State Department spoke with Brandon Gryde, director of government affairs for Dance/USA and OPERA America in A Conversation with the DOS. Many thanks to USCIS and DOS for their willingness to address some of the most frequently asked questions and concerns.
Effective October 1, 2012, all requests for Central Withholding Agreements (CWAs) must be sent to the following address/fax number:
Central Withholding Agreement Program
Mail Stop: 1441
2001 Butterfield Road
Downers Grove, IL 60515-1050
Fax: (603) 493-5906
The IRS has also announced that as of January 1, 2013, CWA requests must be received at least 45 days prior to the first event to be covered by the agreement. The IRS will not process any request it receives less than 45 days before the event, and therefore such event(s) will be subject to 30% withholding of the gross income. Take note, and be sure to submit all CWA requests well in advance!
For more information, the IRS has posted a Q & A from a recent phone forum about CWAs. The Q&A addresses many misconceptions about payments to – or for the services of – nonresident artists, and may be useful for anyone who presents or represents foreign artists.
The IRS has also stated that individual nonresident aliens working in the U.S. no longer need to wait 10 days after arrival to request a Social Security Number (SSN). However, legal advisors suggest the 10 day waiting period still be observed. It can take up to 10 days for the Department of Homeland Security to update arrival information and immigration status, and many workers at the Social Security Administration (SSA) who are unfamiliar with this IRS position turn away nonresident aliens who do not wait 10 days before filing for an SSN. Therefore, foreign artists are still advised to wait 10 days before visiting the SSA. Read further guidance on how to obtain an SSN or Individual Tax Identification Number.
A foreign individual performing as a member of a U.S.-based group is eligible to apply for a P-1B visa, according to a December 31, 2011 memo issued by USCIS. Previously, the P-1B classification was exclusively available to foreign-based groups of performers. This development provides an opportunity for individuals to apply for a visa based on the reputation of the U.S.-based group with which the performances will take place. Please note, however, that individuals coming to the United States on a P-1B visa will only be authorized for work that takes place as a member of the U.S.-based group. For individual artists planning an itinerary of activities that includes performances as a member of a group, plus solo or other endeavors, the O-1B will be the appropriate visa classification. While the memo is dated December 2011, USCIS has yet to publicly post or proactively announce the policy change. Nonetheless, the Vermont and California visa processing centers are implementing the new policy. See our P1-B page for more details.
In conjunction with the relaunch of the improved Artists from Abroad website, download a free webinar featuring the site’s primary authors, immigration and tax experts Jonathan Ginsburg and Robyn Guilliams. The one-hour webinar walks you through the new features of the site while Jonathan and Robyn share their top tips for approaching the visa and tax procedures. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the newly revised site or how to engage foreign guest artists, this webinar is a great introduction. Register online to receive the free webinar on demand!
Through the remainder of 2012, new requirements are in place for documentation accompanying requests for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). The IRS will no longer accept ITIN requests accompanied by copies of passports or documents if the copies have been certified by a U.S. or foreign notary. To prove identity and foreign status, an individual must now provide documents that have been certified as authentic by the agency that originally issued the document. These documents will now require much more time to assemble, and the IRS plans to announce further changes to the ITIN process to take effect in 2013. Read more about the process for obtaining an ITIN.
As of April 13, 2012, the fee for most nonimmigrant consular visa applications and Border Crossing Cards will increase. If you paid your consular visa fee before April 13, 2012, you do not have to pay the difference between the new and old fee amounts as long as your consular visa interview is on or before July 12, 2012. Starting July 13, 2012, you will be required to pay the difference between the old and new fee amounts – no exceptions.
O and P consular applicants will need to pay $190, not including any reciprocity fees. The base application fee is paid prior to the appointment and it is critical to check the consular post’s specific requirements regarding fee payment. Reciprocity fees, if applicable, are paid in cash on the day of the consular interview.