NEWS ARCHIVE 2008-2010
- New I-129 Form in Effect - (11/23/10)
- Filing Fees to Increase November 23, 2010 – (10/02/10)
- New Policy Supports Complete Itinerary Approvals – (07/20/10)
- 14-Day Regular Processing Promised – (07/20/10)
- USCIS Invites Comments on Petition Process – (05/17/10)
- USCIS Reinstates Multi-Employer Petitioning Process – (12/16/09)
- USCIS Announces New Appointed Petitioner Rules – (10/07/09)
- File Visa Petitions as Early as Possible – (08/18/09)
- Tax FAQ Now Online – (09/30/08)
- Clarification on Accountable Plan Rules – (09/18/08)
- Updated Tax Tips from ArtistsfromAbroad.org – (07/14/08)
USCIS launched a new version of the I-129 Form on November 23, 2010. Please see our updated guidance for completing the new Form, and take note of the following dates, as submitting the wrong version of the Form could result in costly delays.
November 23, 2010 - Revised form available for immediate use on www.uscis.gov
December 21, 2010 - Last day for postmarking to USCIS the previous edition of the Form I-129.
December 22, 2010 – Petitions postmarked to USCIS on or after this date must include new Form I-129.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased the fees for visa petitions filed on or after November 23, 2010.
• The fee for the regular I-129 petition for a nonimmigrant worker will increase from $320 to $325.
• The fee for the I-907 premium processing form will increase from $1000 to $1225.
• The fee for the I-539 petition to extend/change status (used for spouses and dependents) will decrease from $300 to $290.
• The fee for the I-824 petition for action on an approved application or petition (usually used to request a duplicate I-797 notice of approval) will increase from $340 to $405.
Petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed on or after November 23, 2010 must include the new fee. To avoid delays in processing, please note the fee change and plan accordingly. USCIS will likely return any petitions that are filed with the new fee before November 23rd, or with the old fee after November 23rd.
USCIS has released a final policy memorandum advising visa processing centers to approve O petitions for the length of the validity period requested where the law and regulations permit, and clarified that there is no policy limiting the allowable gap between engagements in an itinerary. The memo reverses an informal policy adopted by the two visa processing centers that limited the allowable gap between engagements to 45 days. The nonprofit performing arts community is pleased with this positive development and has requested that the policy formally be applied to P petitions.
According to the USCIS, both the California and Vermont visa processing centers are currently processing regularly filed O and P visa petitions (without the $1,000 Premium Processing fee) within an average of 14 days. Since 2001, regular processing times have varied wildly – ranging up to 120 days for some petitions, despite a requirement in law to process O and P petitions within 14 days. USCIS now says they will strive to honor that 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. If processing times exceed 14 days, petitioners are advised to contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
USCIS is inviting comments on a draft policy memo that will guide how USCIS staff processes artist visa petitions. Artists that travel to perform in the United States frequently bundle multiple performances into a single visa petition, which may include gaps between engagements. Current laws and regulations permit this practice, which is essential to streamline the time, costs, and burdens associated with obtaining artist visas. Recently, USCIS has been considering limiting the allowable time between engagements and considering whether, in certain cases, multiple visa petitions should be required for engagements that the USCIS considers “unrelated.” The draft policy memo, happily, does not propose such a limit, so long as the group of activities can be considered related events. This public comment period provides an opportunity for the arts community to affirm the importance of reasonable visa validity periods that cover multiple events. The deadline for submitting comments is May 24, 2010. Please note: Until issued in final form, the draft memo does not represent a change in policy at USCIS.
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.
When seeking visa approval for an itinerary involving multiple employers or venues, the petitioner does not have to demonstrate that it normally serves as “an agent” outside of the petition process. Instead, USCIS indicates that petitioners can include a statement, signed by the various venues or employers, establishing that the petitioner is authorized to act as agent for the limited purpose of filing the petition with USCIS. We have crafted a sample form that petitioners should consider including when filing petitions on behalf of multiple venues or employers.
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 entire petition must be carefully assembled to satisfy all USCIS requirements. Please see our Multiple Venue Petitions for additional updated guidance.
The USCIS has announced new policies 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. According to a USCIS “fact sheet” released on October 7, 2009, a single employer may not submit a visa petition on behalf of multiple employers, unless that employer is “in business as an agent.” Nothing, of course, prevents a single employer from filing a petition for its own engagement.
If an artist plans to travel to the U.S. for multiple engagements, and a U.S. organization in business as an agent is NOT submitting the petition, each U.S. employer must file a separate visa petition.
Recent developments at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), may cause unusual delays.
- Requests for Evidence on the Rise: USCIS is responding to many well-assembled visa with requests for additional evidence. Even if you are experienced at the visa process - and even if an artist has previously been approved for a visa - carefully review your supporting evidence to ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible. Do NOT rely on the mere fact of a prior approval: document everything afresh.
- Multiple Venue Petitions Questioned: A single arts organization or individual often will petition on behalf of multiple organizations engaging an artist for a series of performances. This "appointed agent" procedure streamlines and simplifies the petition process. However, USCIS has recently rejected some of these multiple venue petitions unless filed by a U.S. artist manager, contradicting current regulations and previously-approved practice.
To buffer against potential delays, please file your petition as early as possible! USCIS will accept visa petitions filed up to one year in advance of a performance. Filing your petition as soon as an artist is confirmed can provide the necessary cushion to help absorb unexpected USCIS delays.
Answers to your most frequently asked questions regarding the tax requirements for foreign guests artists are now available online. The tax FAQ posted on the Artists from Abroad web site provides an overview of the most common inquiries regarding withholding requirements, tax returns, and identification numbers for foreign guest artists.
The most recent verbal guidance from the IRS, as well as the IRS’s written guidance, indicates that the “accountable plan rules” are applicable to nonresident aliens working as independent contractors in the United States. In effect, an expense reimbursement made to a foreign artist in accordance with these rules is not reportable as income – and is not subject to 30% withholding. The accountable plan rules also apply to expenses paid to third parties on the artist’s behalf (e.g., hotel accommodations and/or travel paid for or provided by a presenter). Learn more about the rules - and exceptions - in our updated guidance regarding payments subject to withholding.
The IRS is stepping up enforcement of the tax and withholding requirements for foreign entertainers. Do you know enough about the rules (and the exceptions!) to steer clear of IRS penalties? Whether you’re a frequent visitor to this site, or this is your first time viewing Artists from Abroad, check out the tax section, where we’ve posted all new guidance to help untangle the web of IRS rules. Authored by attorney Robyn Guilliams, the tax guidance includes details on withholding requirements, U.S. tax returns, identification numbers, and links to all of the forms needed to comply with IRS rules.