NEWS ARCHIVE 2017

Index in reverse chronological order:


Supreme Court upholds Administration’s newest travel restrictions - (12/19/17)

*Updated 1/2/18: On December 23, 2017, a federal judge in Washington state issued a ruling blocking parts of the Administration's travel ban that limits entry into the United States by refugees from several majority Muslim nations. The ruling does not apply to "those refugees who lack a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States" and the travel ban otherwise remains in effect.

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Trump Administration’s request for full enforcement of his September Presidential Proclamation, lifting two injunctions issued in October by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii that had partially blocked its implementation. The Supreme Court’s announcement means that until further court action, the ban goes into full effect and nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad are restricted from traveling to the United States, as well as all immigrants and non-immigrants from North Korea and certain government officials and their family members from Venezuela traveling on business or tourist visas (B-1/B-2).

As a reminder, it is possible that case-by-case waivers from the restrictions may be available. The Proclamation includes a list of potential circumstances under which individual waivers might apply, including:  

(C)  the foreign national seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry would impair those obligations;

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has posted a Fact Sheet and FAQ webpage that provides initial details about the specific restrictions and potential waivers. ArtistsfromAbroad.org will be updated with additional information for artists as further details regarding implementation are available.

 

Administration’s newest travel restrictions blocked by two federal judges – (10/19/17)

Two federal judges issued rulings this week to partially block implementation of travel restrictions established in a September 24 Presidential Proclamation. Taking these rulings into account, nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad will not be restricted from traveling to the United States, but all immigrants and non-immigrants from North Korea and certain government officials and their family members from Venezuela traveling on business or tourist visas (B-1/B-2) will continue to be restricted. Any artists from any of these countries who seek to perform in the U.S. should continue to request a “bona fide relationship” waiver, but be advised that decisions are at consular discretion.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Hawaii blocked a large portion of the Trump Administration’s Proclamation, having to do with the restriction of entry of travelers from six of the eight countries listed. Later that same evening, a Maryland federal judge also issued a partial halt on the Proclamation, which was to take effect yesterday morning and barring a range of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea, and Venezuela. While the Hawaii judge’s order blocks the “ban” on all of those countries except for North Korea and Venezuela, the Maryland order is more tailored and halts the enforcement on people in all of the listed countries who lack a “bona fide” relationship with a person or entity in the United States. These relationships may include family members or some type of professional or other engagement in the United States. While the Maryland ruling is narrower, the judge deemed the Proclamation to be a “re-animation of the twice-enjoined Muslim ban.”

Previously, the Trump Administration issued two versions of a travel ban, but significant portions of both were blocked by these same federal judges. The March travel ban prompted legal challenges that the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear in early October, but one of those challenges was dismissed due to a key portion of the March ban having expired and the release of the Presidential Proclamation at the end of September.

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicated it will appeal the Hawaii ruling and it will likely appeal today’s ruling from Maryland as well. We will continue to update this page as further information becomes available.

 

Effective immediately: USCIS Updates for Service Center Jurisdiction – (10/13/17)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an important change in how I-129 petitions should be filed. Regardless where temporary work in the U.S. will take place, petitions should be filed based on the primary company/organizational location of the petitioner. This applies to single employer and multiple-employer petitions. For all O and P petitions, the primary location of the petitioner’s company or organization will determine whether I-129 materials are sent to California or Vermont Service Center. Please refer to the updated Service Center Tips for a complete list of which states correspond to which service center (and note that Texas petitioners now file with the California Service Center!), as well as which addresses to use.

Starting November 11, 2017, USCIS may reject Form I-129s that are filed at the wrong service center, so petitioners should take note and make any adjustments in filing as needed, effective immediately.

For additional information, visit the USCIS webpage, Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

 

ALERT: Non-Immigrant Visa Services Suspended in Turkey - (10/10/17)

Update: The U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the Consulate General in Istanbul offer Non Immigrant Visa interviews by appointment only. All visa applicants should follow instructions at www.usvisa-info.com to schedule an appointment.

 **Applicants are advised not to make any travel arrangements before they physically receive their visas.**

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Re-Opening of NIV Services

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Effective immediately, the United States Government has suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey. Ambassador John Bass released a statement on the suspension of these services, taking care to say that “this suspension of services is not a visa ban on Turkish citizens” but rather “a suspension of our consideration of new visa applications.” People possessing a valid visa may still travel to the United States, and all others may apply for a visa at another U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Turkey.

 
 

ALERT: Cubans Advised to Apply for Visas Elsewhere – (10/04/17)

The U.S. Department of State has recently ordered the departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees. In light of the greatly reduced staff, only emergency services is being provided to U.S. citizens in Cuba, and most visa processing in Havana has been suspended. Cuban beneficiaries seeking to interview and apply for nonimmigrant visas are advised to apply at another U.S. embassy or consulate overseas until further notice.

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Newest Travel Restrictions Start October 18 - (09/26/17)

Less than two weeks before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments on challenges to a March 6 Executive Order banning travel by citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, the Trump Administration issued a Presidential Proclamation setting in place new travel restrictions for citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. Beginning October 18, these new rules will take effect for an indefinite period of time, although the United States may consider lifting restrictions on countries that meet certain standards.   

Those who currently hold valid visas should not be impacted, but future immigrants as well as many seeking nonimmigrant visas will be blocked, depending on the particular restrictions set per country.

  • Chad, Libya, and Yemen: Suspends entry for immigrants, and nonimmigrants on business (B-1) and tourist (B-2) visas.
  • Iran: Immigrants and nonimmigrants are blocked, except for students (F and M visas) and exchange visitors (J visas).
  • North Korea and Syria: Suspends entry for immigrants and nonimmigrants.
  • Somalia: Suspends entry for immigrants and applies additional screening for nonimmigrant visas.
  • Venezuela: New restrictions apply only to certain government officials and their families.

It is possible that case-by-case waivers from the restrictions may be available. The Proclamation includes a list of potential circumstances under which individual waivers might apply, including:  

(C)  the foreign national seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry would impair those obligations;

The Supreme Court has canceled its October 10 plans to hear oral arguments on the March 6 Executive Order, and is weighing whether the court will still take up the case. Meanwhile, it is also possible that the lower courts will begin review of the new September 24 Presidential Proclamation. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has posted a Fact Sheet and FAQ webpage that provides initial details about the specific restrictions and potential waivers. ArtistsfromAbroad.org will be updated with additional information for artists as further details regarding implementation are available.

 
 
 

Visa Interviews in Russia Suspended; Taking place in Moscow only, effective September 1 - (08/25/17)

Update:   On December 11, 2017 the U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok resumed limited nonimmigrant visa interviews at a reduced scale. Embassy Moscow continues to offer interviews for immigrant, diversity and nonimmigrant visas. Still, fewer staff are providing visa services than before the U.S. diplomatic presence was drastically reduced in August. For general information on how to apply for a visa, please refer visit: www.ustraveldocs.com/ru.

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Due to the recent reduction of the United States’ diplomatic presence in Russia, all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia were suspended on August 23. Visa services will be suspended indefinitely, and appointments will be rescheduled, so applicants should look for instructions via email. Visa operations will resume in Moscow only, beginning September 1. For further details, please review this Fact Sheet.

Due to the significantly reduced staffing levels required by the Russian government, applicants should prepare for a much smaller capacity for interviews in Moscow. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow will continue to process nonimmigrant visas without an interview for those who qualify. (These exceptions include renewal within the same class of visa within one year of expiration but is at consular officer discretion.) Petitioners and artists should plan ahead – either allowing significantly more time for consular processing in Moscow, or advising artists to travel outside of Russia entirely to interview at a visa-issuing embassy if possible.


 
Travel Restrictions Partially Reinstated by Supreme Court Decision - (06/29/17)

Update!  On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the injunction on the March 6 executive order, allowing for the reinstatement of travel restrictions, with certain limits. The Court’s decision specified that travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen intending to enter the United States with a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” cannot be barred from entry. Further Court action will follow with arguments set to be heard in October 2017.
 
As of June 29, 2017, at 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time, the Department of State began implementing the Executive Order at embassies and consulates abroad. The Department of Homeland Security’s public statement on the decision said the agency plans to carry out the executive order “professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers.” As articulated in the Court’s decision, individuals accepting a job offer from an American company may be considered to have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” and, thus, not be subject to the travel restrictions.

Department of State announcement spells out immediate plans for implementation. The accompanying FAQ includes the following section, which specifies that nonimmigrant visas, such as the O and P visas used by artists, are inherently exempt from the restrictions of the Executive Order:

What nonimmigrant visa classes are exempted from the Executive Order, based on the Supreme Court’s order?

The Supreme Court’s order specified that the suspension of entry in section 2(c) of Executive Order 13780 (E.O.) may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. Applicants seeking B, C-1, C-3, D, or I visas will need to make a credible claim to a consular officer at their visa interview that they have a bona fide close familial relationship with a person in the United States or of a bona fide, formal, documented relationship with an entity in the United States that was formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading the E.O., for the visa applicant to be exempt from the E.O. based on the Supreme Court order. Alternatively, some applicants may qualify for an exemption, and others may qualify for a waiver, in accordance with the E.O. itself. Qualified applicants in nonimmigrant visa categories not listed above are considered exempt from the E.O., because a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States is inherent in the requirements for the visa classification. In all visa adjudications, consular officers may seek additional information, as warranted, to ensure underlying relationships are bona fide, rather than being established for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining a visa, including by evading the E.O.
 

Travel to the U.S. may be permitted on O and P visas under these rules. Please remember that the final decision for visa approval rests with the consular officials. The FAQ states the following:

An individual who wishes to apply for a nonimmigrant visa should apply for a visa and disclose during the visa interview any information that might demonstrate that he or she is exempt from section 2(c) of the Executive Order.  A consular officer will carefully review each case to determine whether the applicant is affected by the E.O. and, if so, whether the case qualifies for a waiver.   

The Department of Homeland Security has also posted an FAQ related to Executive Order implementation, though it includes less detail related to nonimmigrant work visas than the Department of State version referenced above.

This page will be updated with additional information for artists as further details regarding implementation are available. In the meantime, background on the executive order and subsequent court action is available here.

 

New Supplemental Questionnaire for U.S. Visa Applicants - (06/16/17)

The U.S. State Department has reportedly adopted a new, supplemental questionnaire to further vet U.S. visa applicants during consular processing. This questionnaire, form DS-5535, seeks a visa applicant's prior passport numbers, five years of social media handles, all email addresses and phone numbers, names and dates of birth of all siblings, children, and spouses/domestic partners, as well as addresses, employment and travel history over the previous 15 years. According to the State Department, the questionnaire would not be administered routinely, but rather when a consular officer determines "that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting."

The DS-5535 discloses that “Individuals who fail to submit this form or who do not provide all the requested information may be denied a U.S. visa. Although furnishing this information is voluntary, failure to provide this information may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application.” The questionnaire was approved on May 23 for a period of 180 days, at which time it could be renewed. All visa applicants will continue to be required to complete the standard DS-160 form.
 
 
London Consular Days Reported - (06/15/17)

According to several petitioners, first- and second-time O-1B artists are facing delays and difficulties, including some denials, obtaining visas from the London consulate. Petitioners should advise their artists of the circumstances and allow for additional time to navigate the consular interview and processing time. As a reminder, upon receiving USCIS approval, all foreign artists with the exceptions of Canadian citizens, need to visit a visa-issuing U.S. embassy for consular processing.


ATTN FL, GA, and NC artist visa petitioners: filing location to change - (04/21/17)
 
Beginning May 20, 2017, U.S. petitioners seeking to engage foreign guest artists (using the O or P classification) for work that will be done at a single location in Florida, Georgia, or North Carolina will need to send the form I-129 and related documentation to the California Service Center. After a two-month grace period, USCIS will reject forms sent to the wrong service center.
 
Please refer to our USCIS Service Center Tips and Contact Information for the filing address information – again, noting that beginning May 20, 2017 petitioners engaging guest artists to work at a single location in FL, GA, or NC will send their petitions to the California Service Center.
 


New Travel Restrictions to Take Place March 16 - (03/16/17)

Update!  On March 15, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide temporary restraining order on the second executive order seeking to enact a travel ban. The Hawaii ruling blocks provisions that would have frozen the refugee program for 120 days and blocked most citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for a period of 90 days. Earlier this morning, a federal judge in Maryland blocked the 90-day suspension of entry. Other aspects of the executive order, including the reduction in number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S., were not blocked by either injunction. The Department of Justice is reviewing the decision and considering its options, which may include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This page will be updated as further developments unfold.
 
The White House has revoked the executive order announced on January 27, 2017 and has issued a new executive order that takes effect on March 16, 2017. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), beginning on March 16 and, “(f)or the next 90 days, foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen who are outside the United States on the effective date of the order, do not currently have a valid visa on the effective date of this order, and did not have a valid visa at 5:00 eastern standard time on January 27, 2017, are not eligible to travel to the United States.”
 
The DHS calls the restriction a “temporary suspension” and says, “(t)he 90-day period will allow for proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals.” DHS provides the following information:
Green card holders and dual citizens may continue to travel to the U.S., and individuals that hold a valid U.S. visa may travel to the U.S. for the remaining validity of their visa. The DHS fact sheet outlines the following exceptions to the restrictions:
 
“The Executive Order does not apply to certain individuals, such as lawful permanent residents of the United States; foreign nationals admitted to the United States after the effective date of the order; individuals with a document that is valid on the effective date of the order or any date thereafter which permits travel to the United States; dual nationals when travelling on a passport issued by a non-designated country; foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic, NATO, C-2 for travel to the United Nations, G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visas; and individuals already granted asylum or refugee status in the United States before the effective date of the order. 
 
DHS and the Department of State have the discretionary authority, on a case-by-case basis, to issue visas or allow the entry of nationals of these six countries into the United States when a national from one of the countries demonstrates that the denial of entry would cause undue hardship, that his or her entry would not pose a threat to national security, and that his or her entry would be in the national interest.”
 
While the legal and arts community continue to study the order more fully, here are the key ways the new rules intersect with travel by artists:

For all artists globally:             
  • The Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP) is immediately suspended, and all nonimmigrant visa applicants must have in-person interviews. Previously, some artists have been able to waive the interview requirement if they were collecting a visa less than 12 months after a prior visa expired. The elimination of the VIWP option will create more demand for consular appointments, so artists should allow extra time for the visa approval process abroad.
  • Vetting and screening procedures will be heightened at all levels of the immigration process. Again, artists should allow extra time for the visa approval process.

For individuals traveling on passports from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen:

  • Visas issued before March 16, 2017 may continue to be used for the duration of their validity, and any individual with a revoked or cancelled visa as a result of the prior, January 27, 2017 Order is entitled to a travel document for travel and entry to the United States. After March 16, 2017, nationals from the list of six countries will no longer receive visas, even if their visa classification has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • The new Order allows for exceptions and case-by-case waivers, although the terms for these exceptions and waivers are not clear at this time.
  • If an artist who is citizen of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen is also a citizen of another country not on the list (for example, a citizen of both Iran and Canada), s/he WILL be allowed to receive a visa and travel to the U.S. PROVIDED the visa is stamped into the passport from the non-banned country and the artist is traveling on the passport from the non-banned country. However, dual citizens should still expect "heightened vetting and screening procedures."

We will continue to update this page as further information becomes available.

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Travel Ban's Impact on Artists - (02/10/17)

Update! On February 9, 2017, a federal appeals court denied the request by the Department of Justice to reinstate the travel ban for individuals using passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The American Immigration Lawyers Association reported that on February 3, 2017, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order on a nationwide basis related to the Executive Order described below. The decision by the appeals court means the restraining order remains in force, which prohibits the federal government from enforcing the 90-day travel ban on immigrants and nonimmigrants from designated countries on a nationwide basis until further order from the court. All airlines and terminal operators have been notified to permit boarding of all passengers without regard to nationality. The Department of State has confirmed that, assuming there were no other issues in the case, provisionally revoked visas have been reversed and are valid again. The Department of Justice is reviewing the decision and considering its options, which may include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This page will be updated as further developments unfold.

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that immediately affects​ screening, visa issuance and admissions procedures for individuals using passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Department of Homeland security posted details related to implementation of the order on February 1, and issued a press statement on February 3 outlining the intent of the "90 day temporary pause on travel."

Among other provisions, Section 3 of the Executive Order, suspends the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry of individuals using passports from the designated countries for 90 days from the date of the order. Note that, after the 90 days, there is no assurance that travel automatically will be reinstated.

At present, foreign guest artists traveling on passports from the seven designated countries will not be able to enter the U.S., including those artists who already possess an approved visa. Consular locations have ceased issuing nonimmigrant visas for passport holders from the 7 named countries.

In the case of those who might attempt to travel to the U.S. on a previously-issued visa, Customs and Border Protection personnel are supposed to allow nonimmigrants to withdraw their application for admission. Immigration attorneys are advising all those affected to do so, as the only alternative at present is a procedure called "expedited removal." Those subjected to expedited removal will, in the future, be required to obtain permission before applying for a new visa and they may be barred from entry into the U.S. altogether, at least for a period of 5 years.

This order applies to anyone who holds a passport from any of the seven designated countries. Dual nationals traveling on a passport that is not from the seven designated countries remain able to enter the U.S., but they should expect additional scrutiny and delay on entry.

The Executive Order does NOT apply to people who merely traveled to designated countries, though travel to those countries also may cause additional questioning and delay on entry into the U.S.

Those holding green cards may re-enter the U.S., but they, too, should expect additional scrutiny and delays.

Because the situation can change at any time, it is strongly advised that anyone from the seven designated countries contact a qualified immigration attorney before making any travel decisions.

 
New Year, New Fees, New Forms - (01/04/17) 

Effective Dec 23, 2016, filing fees for the form I-129 increased to $460 per petition. Fees also increased for the I-539 petition to extend/change status (used for spouses and dependents) to $370 and for the I-824 petition for action on an approved application or petition (usually used to request a duplicate I-797 notice of approval) to $465.
 
Also, USCIS has released updated versions of several forms, including the I-129 and the I-539, and petitioners should begin using them immediately. The form I-907 for Premium Processing Service is unchanged. Previous editions of the newly updated forms will only be accepted by USCIS until February 21, 2017, so it is best for petitioners to begin using the new versions right away. Note that the look and feel of the I-129 has not changed, so the guidance for completing it remains the same.

**Update** Note that USCIS released another I-129 on 1/17/17, which underscores how important it is, as a general practice, to visit uscis.gov/forms and download the most recently posted form whenever preparing a visa petition, whether you are engaging an artist for the first time or the fortieth.
 

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