NEWS ARCHIVE 2014-2016
- Prepare for Fee Increase! – (10/24/16)
- O and P Visa Fee Increase Ahead: Urge USCIS to Make Improvements Now! – (6/28/16)
- Be Aware of Delays and Extra Security Measures! – (12/11/15)
- Processing Delays Persist! – (11/23/15)
- Plan Now for Processing Delays! – (09/22/15)
- USCIS To Discontinue PPS eFiling – (08/25/15)
- Switch to New I-129 Version NOW – (08/17/15)
- Visa Alert! State Dept Computer Crash Halts Visa Issuance – (06-19-15)
- New Premium Processing Form I-907: Start Using TODAY – (05/05/15)
- NEW I-129 Form Now Available! – (12-18-14)
- Expect Consular Processing Delays! – (08-12-14)
- When Filing, Remember to Send Duplicate Copy! – (05-01-14)
- Double-Check Your Approval Notice! – (02-28-14)
- File Visa Petitions Early - and Carefully! – (02-19-14)
Prepare for Fee Increase! – (10/24/16)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a substantial increase in I-129 filing fees, effective for petitions postmarked on or after December 23, 2016. The Premium Processing fee remains $1,225. Despite concerns raised by several national performing arts organization in joint comments submitted to the Federal Register, the following fees will increase:
- The fee for the regular I-129 petition for a nonimmigrant worker will increase from $325 to $460.
- The fee for the I-539 petition to extend/change status (used for spouses and dependents) will increase from $290 to $370.
- 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 $405 to $465.
To avoid delays in processing, please note the fee change and plan accordingly. All petitions postmarked on or after December 23, 2016 should include the new fee of $460. Do not submit the higher fee any earlier than this date.
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed making it more costly to apply for the required visas for foreign guest artists, and is inviting public comments on its plans to increase the filing fee for an I-129 petition for an O or P artist visa from $325 to $460 – a 42% increase. The Premium Processing Service fee would remain at the current rate of $1,225 – still out of reach for most nonprofit arts organizations. The date for implementing the proposed fee increase has not yet been set.
Several national performing arts organizations are working together to submit comments, and the public is invited to participate as well. USCIS is accepting public comment on their fee proposal via the Federal Register through July 5, 2016. To learn more and speak up, you can participate through the Federal Register.
Arts organizations that engage foreign guest artists should be aware of substantial processing delays at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service centers. Both service centers are reportedly taking a minimum of 8-10 weeks to process petitions, with Vermont taking even longer. Many organizations are opting to file via Premium Processing Service (PPS), so be advised that if you have engagements for foreign guest artists taking place before the spring, your safest bet may be to upgrade your petitions to PPS.
Although non-resident aliens are generally not required to travel with a copy of their petition approval notices (the form I-797, which is issued to the U.S. petitioner), the safest practice is to make sure your guest artists have a copy of the underlying USCIS petition as well as a copy of the I-797 approval notice when they enter the U.S. Also, while most petitioners are already aware that the Visa Waiver Program can be used by artists under only very narrow circumstances, everyone should be advised that to attempt to enter on the VWP with the intention of performing can result in severe and lasting consequences.
Please be extra careful to complete your petitions accurately, and stay tuned in to artistsfromabroad.org for up-to-date guidance and helpful templates!
Processing delays for regularly-filed petitions persist at the Vermont Service Center, which in mid-November was reporting at least a three month back-up. Petitioners should plan accordingly and be prepared to upgrade petitions to Premium Processing Service (PPS) if a performance is imminent, also accounting for sufficient time for consular processing once approval has been granted by USCIS.
There are some indications that California Service Center may be slightly delayed as well, so petitioners should keep an eye on the calendar and keep track of the petition. If a petition filed through the regular filing process exceeds 14 days in processing times, petitioners can call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 800-375-5283 to initiate an inquiry into the status of your case. NCSC has live agents available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. in each time zone. Knowing the average service center processing times is crucial because NCSC operators are not permitted to provide additional support until the case is past due according to the currently quoted processing times.
In recent weeks and months, petitioners have been reporting processing delays and some unusual Requests for Evidence (RFEs) for O and P artist visas. The Vermont Service Center is particularly backed up, with regularly-filed petitions reportedly taking up to 6-8 weeks or even longer to process. Plan to file your petitions as early as possible in order to absorb any unexpected delays in processing or to respond to a USCIS request for additional evidence, and remember that the processing times listed on the USCIS website are an estimate and do not always reflect just how lengthy the delays are. Be sure to give your petition a close look for errors or omissions before filing, and for petitioners whose artists need to arrive in the U.S. sooner, consider converting your petition to Premium Processing Service.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it will discontinue the option to e-File several forms, including the I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. The last day to begin a new form in the e-Filing system is August 30, 2015, with all forms to be completed and submitted by September 20th. Any incomplete submissions will need to be filed using paper forms. All e-Filed petitions that are pending in the e-Filing system will be adjudicated.
Remember that the I-907 request may only be filed electronically if the original I-129 form and supporting evidence have already been received by USCIS and a petitioner is seeking to upgrade a petition to PPS. Petitioners submitting an original I-129 and simultaneously seeking PPS must do so by hard copy.
After September 20, 2015, all petitioners must file the paper versions of the Form I-907. USCIS is discontinuing its legacy e-Filing system as part of a process to transition to a new Electronic Immigration System, which will reportedly be faster and more secure. The Form I-907 will eventually be part of the new system, but not in the immediate future, so petitioners should plan accordingly and build in extra time for paper filing PPS requests. Questions? Contact USCIS via their online help form or call customer service at 1-800-375-5283 (TDD for deaf or hard of hearing: 1-800-767-1833).
**UPDATED August 2015: The very latest version of the I-129 is dated 8/13/15. Although previous editions dated 03/26/15 and 10/23/14 are still being accepted at this time, petitioners should be advised that the safest course is to always go to www.uscis.gov/i-129 for the very latest version when preparing a petition for new or returning O and P artists, and to go to www.uscis.gov/i-907 for the latest version of the form to request Premium Processing Service.
Originally posted on 04/27/15:
An important reminder to visa petitioners engaging foreign guest artists: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept only the new version (edition date: 10/23/14) of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker beginning this Friday, May 1, 2015. Verify the edition date of the form at the bottom of each page of the I-129. Note that any petition submitted on or after May 1 must use this newest version or USCIS will reject it.
Update: As of 6/26/15, the State Department reports that ALL visa-issuing embassies and consulates are back online. All posts are interviewing applicants and issuing visas, and the backlog is expected to be cleared by early next week. Please check the website of the nearest embassy or consulate for interview appointment availability and up-to-date messages.
If you are engaging a foreign guest artist who planned to obtain an O or P visa at a U.S. consulate during the week of June 14, you may be aware of a global State Department system failure that has halted visa issuances.
Find the latest State Department news about the technical problem here. Because the computer failure is related to the steps of identity verification and security screening, it is highly unlikely consulates will be able to issue visas, even for the most urgent cases. While State Department officials say they are working around the clock to address the problem, there is no confirmed date for a return to normal operations. U.S. arts organizations presenting international artists in the very near term should have a back-up plan, as without a fully-processed and issued visa, artists are unable to work in the U.S.
As systems come back online, consulates will begin prioritizing visa issuance. Traveling artists should make their case for the time-sensitive nature of travel. Please make sure your artists have this memo on hand to underscore the time-sensitive nature of the performance(s) in the U.S.
Attention petitioners! In addition to the new form I-129 now in exclusive use for O or P visas, and new form I-539 to extend or change nonimmigrant status, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also released an updated version of the form I-907, which is used to expedite petitions via the Premium Processing Service. USCIS will accept only the new version (edition date: 01/29/15) of Form I-907, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker beginning this June 1, 2015. Verify the edition date of the form at the bottom of each page of the I-907 and be sure to switch today, since any petition submitted on or after June 1 must use this newest version or USCIS will reject it. View our updated sample of the I-907, and make note of the following details:
If your mailing address is different from your physical address, both need to be noted in the appropriate places in Part 1 (mailing address in Question 4, then if the physical address is different, check Yes for Question 5 and complete Question 6). In Part 1, Question 7, be sure to check the appropriate box – in most cases, unless an attorney is completing the petition on your behalf, you will be the petitioner requesting PPS, and thus you would check the first box. You will enter essentially the same information in Part 2, Question 4 and 6.
Be sure to print out and submit all 6 pages of the new I-907, but you can leave the fields for Part 4 and 5 blank if you did not require the services of an interpreter or preparer.
USCIS launched a new version of the I-129 Form at the end of October, 2014. The changes are fairly minor, but petitioners will notice a new layout and slight re-organization. The Part 9 Explanation page is formatted differently as well, and it should be noted that the O & P Supplement is now three pages, instead of two. Please see our updated guidance for completing the new I-129 as well as our updated sample petitions. USCIS will accept editions of the I-129 dated 10/07/11, 01/19/11, and 11/23/10 (you’ll find this in the bottom left corner of the form) until April 30, 2015. After that time, USCIS will only accept the new 10/23/14 edition.
CURRENT – New I-129 form available for immediate use on www.uscis.gov
Starting on MAY 1, 2015, USCIS will accept only this newest Oct. 23, 2014, edition of Form I-129. USCIS will not accept previous editions of Forms I-129. To be on the safe side, plan to use the new version of the form well in advance of this date.
U.S. Consulates are recovering from a major system outage that occurred on August 1st. Expect delays in consular visa processing throughout the month of August. While significant progress has been made in the last week, consulates are prioritizing the processing of immigrant visas, adoption cases, and emergency nonimmigrant visa cases. Guest artists who need to interview and obtain an O or P visa should anticipate a delay of at least one additional week in processing times and should check directly with the specific embassy/consulate for additional information. Updates relating to the system outage and processing delays will be posted online.
In light of these delays, petitioners are advised to plan ahead and build in extra time for the full visa process. Remember that O and P petitions can be filed up to one year in advance.
When filing an I-129 petition to the California or Vermont Service Centers, petitioners should remember to include a complete duplicate copy of the petition. Your duplicate copy should have a cover sheet that reads “DUPLICATE I-129 PETITION. PLEASE FORWARD TO KCC UPON APPROVAL.” Also remember that if responding to a Request for Evidence (RFE), you must submit any new information in duplicate as well, including copies of the RFE notice issued to you by the service center.
When USCIS approves an I-129 petition, a copy of the approval and the duplicate petition is forwarded to the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), which uploads both items into the Petition Information Management System (PIMS). This enables consular officers to access approval and petition information when conducting visa interviews abroad. If the approval information is not in PIMS at the time of the interview, the consular post will contact KCC directly to update PIMS and this can result in an additional two to three day delay.
Give the petition a close review for errors or omissions, and review our general guidance for filing. As always, plan to file your petitions as early as possible in order to absorb any unexpected delays in processing.
Petitioners have recently received approval notices in which the classification period does not match what was requested on the I-129. For this reason, petitioners are urged to check the I-797 right away. If the mistake is the result of a data entry error, contact USCIS to request a correction, but in the event the service center has purposely truncated the period to reflect dates from the itinerary or contract, you will need to notify your foreign guest artists and instruct them to request up to ten extra days of validity from U.S. Customs & Border Protection upon entry to the U.S. The extra days can be added before and/or after the classification period on the visa, but remember that there is only one opportunity to request this and the dates reflected in the I-94 will be final and unchangeable. Also remember that no work will be permitted during those extra days.
Petitioners are reporting a recent wave of unexpected processing delays, Requests for Evidence (RFEs), and even denials for O and P artist visas. While the USCIS website continues to list an average timeframe of 14 days for regular processing, the system is actually taking significantly longer for many petitioners. Plan to file your petitions as early as possible in order to absorb any unexpected delays in processing or to respond to a USCIS request for additional evidence. Be sure to give your petition a close look for errors or omissions before filing.