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New USCIS Policies Aim to Improve Visa Process - (06/09/21)

On June 9, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced policy changes that will support improved visa processing, specifying opportunities for artist visa petitioners. Action by USCIS is intended to:

  • Restore the ability for a nonprofit organization whose request is "in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States" to request discretionary expedited service, even when premium processing is available. In 2019, the USCIS revoked this specific eligibility criterion from its "traditional expedite" process, which is available for those that have filed a visa petition and are in need of rapid visa processing due to emergency circumstances beyond their control. To be clear, these cases are considered on a case-by-case basis, and this process is not a replacement for filing a timely visa application. The new traditional expedite criteria are effective immediately, and are a strong indication that USCIS is tuning in to the needs of artist-related visa petitioners. 
  • Ensure that petitioners submitting a visa application are given an opportunity to correct innocent mistakes and unintentional omissions before an application is denied. New guidance issued to USCIS petition reviewers emphasizes that visa officers should only issue requests for additional evidence and denials when absolutely necessary. 

Serious challenges with the artist visa process have been present long before the additional limitations of recent COVID-19 travel restrictions. The wider arts and cultural sector have partnered to seek these policy improvements, and continue to pursue additional USCIS policy improvements that will make the artist visa process more predictable, reliable ,and affordable - all to support ongoing international cultural activity.

The changes announced today have been immediately reflected in the USCIS policy manual. Artists from Abroad will post further updates about navigating the visa process as these new policies are put to the test.