Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., both members and former chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statements after introducing the ARTS Act, a bill that would require the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to treat as a premium processing case (15-day turn around) free of additional charge any arts-related O and P visa petitions that it fails to adjudicate within 14 days.
“All Americans benefit from greater access to the world’s best performers and artists. However, because of unreliable visa processing delays,many of our nonprofit arts organizations risk financial harm if they are unable to present artists as planned,”said Senator Hatch. “This bill is a commonsense effort to simplify that process and I hope that it will move quickly to the President’s desk.”
“Organizations such as the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Vermont Performance Lab, and Burlington City Arts enrich our state’s dynamic culture, are integral to our economy, and ensure that all communities benefit from the remarkable power of the arts,” Senator Leahy said. “The ARTS Act acknowledges the unique challenges that nonprofit arts organizations confront with our visa system and would assist them in their effort to bring international arts and culture to our communities.”
Nonprofit arts organizations across the country participate in the visa process for engaging foreign guest artists.
Nonprofit arts organizations from all regions of the country and in communities of all sizes engage foreign guest artists. In towns and cities across the United States, orchestras, theatres, and dance and opera companies present international artists to U.S. audiences.
Unreliable Visa Processing Denies U.S. Audiences Access to International Artistry
After significant delays, errors, and unpredictability, some U.S.-based nonprofit arts organizations have been forced to stop engaging international artists. With confidence in the reliability of the visa process low, some U.S. arts organizations have determined that they are unable to bear the financial risk, potential loss of audience confidence, and administrative burden of attempting the artist visa process.
Nonprofit arts organizations cannot afford the Premium Processing Service (PPS) fee of $1,225 per petition:
PPS reduces the amount of money available for a production/performance.
PPS represents a significant portion of an organization’s operating budget and costs associated with the production/performance.
The ARTS Act applies only to temporary, nonimmigrant visas for foreign artists visiting the United States. O and P visas do not add to the number of individuals permanently living and working in the United States.
Congress recognized the time-sensitive nature of the arts when writing the 1991 federal law regarding O and P visas, in which the USCIS is instructed to process O and P arts visas in 14 days. This mandate has never been implemented by USCIS.
The ARTS Act would require USCIS to treat as a Premium Processing case (15-day turn-around), free of additional charge, any arts-related O and P visa petition filed by a nonprofit arts organization that it fails to adjudicate within 14 days.
Statements of Support
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir:
“In addition to touring all across the United States and in over 28 countries around the globe, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir invites international guest artists to join us here at home in providing Utah and national audiences with extraordinary and inspiring music. The improvements to the artist visa process to be achieved by passage of the ARTS Act will make it so much easier for us to welcome renowned international artists to our performances. As a result, our ability to use the universal language of music to bring joy, peace, and healing to listeners will be strengthened. We encourage legislators to support adoption of the ARTS Act.”
The Utah Shakespeare Festival:
“As Shakespeare is the mostly widely produced playwright in the world, it is essential that the Utah Shakespeare Festival have the ability to engage artists from around the globe. This includes directors, designers, actors and musicians from the professional theatre world. The proposed ARTS Act will help non-profit arts organizations, like the Utah Shakespeare Festival, serve artists and audiences alike. By facilitating the ease of the Visa Policy for artists, it will make our employment process far more reliable and simplify hiring.”
Vermont Symphony Orchestra:
“Passage of the ARTS Act will strengthen the climate for international cultural activity and benefit U.S. audiences and performers. Orchestral music is deeply rooted in and inspired by global influences. Ensuring that the visa process is efficient, reliable, and affordable will better enable nonprofit arts organizations like ours to partner with international artists as we bring the dynamic and transformative power of music to our communities.”