Arts Advocacy Update
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Proposes Increased Visa Petition Fees and Other Policy Changes; OPERA America Encourages Submittal of Public Comments; Deadline March 6
This a reminder that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule last month that would impose steep increases to some of its filing fees, including for O and P artist visa applications filed by U.S. petitioners, and other policy changes. The proposed rule would revive and worsen many elements from a 2019 DHS proposal that was ultimately enjoined and prevented from going into effect. This new rule proposes the following, among other provisions:
- Filing fees for regularly processed O visa petitions would increase by 260% from $460 to $1,655 per petition (this would include a $600 surcharge to fund the Asylum Program Fee) — see chart below.
- Filing fees for regularly processed P visa petitions would increase by 251% from $460 to $1,615 per petition (this would include a $600 surcharge to fund the Asylum Program Fee) — see chart below.
- The total number of individuals on a single petition, including O and P arts petitions, would be capped at 25 beneficiaries. This would require numerous petitions for larger ensembles.
- The Premium Processing Service (already unaffordable for many companies and organizations at the current cost of $2,500) would take longer, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) redefining the timeframe from 15 calendar days to 15 business days (federal working days) in order to complete processing.
The public comment period is open until March 6, 2023. It is anticipated that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and its parent agency, DHS, will take several months to review public feedback and consider any adjustments.
What Can the Opera Community Do?
OPERA America is an active member of the Performing Arts Visa Working Group (PAVWG), an ad hoc coalition consisting of various national organization partners dedicated to improving opportunities for international cultural exchange. The PAVWG will be submitting joint comments by the March 6 deadline urging USCIS to not raise its fees and to improve the petition processing times and address current backlogs. Joint comments will indicate the severe economic harm that these proposals would inflict upon an arts and cultural sector that is still recovering from the pandemic. The joint comments will be based on public comments filed in 2019 to defeat a similar DHS proposal. PAVWG will finalize its latest public comments by COB February 17 to be filed by the March 6 deadline. Once finalized, OPERA America will send them to its members and interested stakeholders for their review and to be tailored to their respective public comments to be submitted. The PAVWG also developed a policy background document to quickly bring interested stakeholders current concerning this issue.
OPERA America encourages its members and interested stakeholders to submit public comments that specifically indicate how proposed higher fees will adversely impact their operations, public performances/programs, and their ability to bring international artists to the U.S.
- Review OPERA America’s current action alert, which contains the proposed rule, background information, and guidance on how to submit public comments
- Develop and submit public comments through the Federal Register Portal. The deadline is March 6
- The agency wants to hear how the increased fees will affect arts-related companies and nonprofit organizations.
- Copy and paste a brief summary of public comments to the body of the OPERA America action alert with appropriate contact information so that comments can be directly sent to appropriate U.S. representatives and senators for their review and action before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.