Articles Posted in P3 Visas culturally unique

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It’s the start of a brand-new year! On behalf of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we would like to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year. It has been a challenging time in the world of immigration law but we at the Law Office are proud to help you navigate the new normal.

In this blog post we share with you a new proposed rule that has been published in the Federal Register. The new rule seeks to raise certain nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, fees for the Border Crossing Card for Mexican Citizens age 15 and over, and fees to waive the two-year residency requirement (J waiver).


What is this all about?


On December 29, 2021, the Department of State released a new rule proposing the adjustment of various fees for Consular Services.


Non-Petition Based NIVs to Increase to $245 USD for B1/B2, F, M, J, C, D, I, and BCC applicants


Among the proposed fee changes is an increase of “non-petition” based NIV fees from $160 USD to $245 USD per application.

This change would impact a variety of nonimmigrant visas, such as:

  • those for business and tourist travel (B1/B2);
  • students and exchange visitors (F, M, and J);
  • crew and transit visas (C and D);
  • representatives of foreign media (I), and
  • other country-specific visa classes, as well as BCCs for applicants age 15 or older who are citizens of and resident in Mexico.

According to the Department of State, “non-petition” means visas that do not require separate requests known as “petitions” to be adjudicated prior to the visa application to establish that the individual meets certain qualifying criteria for the relevant status ( e.g. , that the beneficiary of the petition has the relevant familial relationship to the petitioner). Non-petition based NIVs make up nearly 90 percent of all NIV workload.

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We have very exciting news for nonimmigrant visa applicants. Today, December 23rd, the Department of State announced that the agency has granted Consular officers the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants, provided such applicants have a petition approved by USCIS.  This new discretionary power will apply to temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.


Interview Waiver Policy for Certain Nonimmigrant Workers


Pursuant to this new policy, Consular officers now have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

Interview Waiver Policy for Certain F, M, and academic J visa applicants


At the same time, the Secretary of State has extended a previously approved policy designed to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022.

To be eligible for the interview waiver as citizens or nationals of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, applicants must (1) have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA and (2) must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.

Additionally, just like the policy applied to certain non-immigrant workers, Consular officers will also have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants that are (1) citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and (2) that have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, and that have not had any visa ineligibility issues in the past

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Great News for Arts groups coming to perform in the US. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) issued a binding precedent decision addressing the term “culturally unique” and its significance in the adjudication of P petitions for performing artists and entertainers.

The P visa was created to provide opportunities for aliens primarily performing as a group and not individually to tour in the US. The P visa, like the O1 visa, was also created by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990. In addition to covering performing and fine artists, the P1 also covers athletes.

It is important to make clear that the O1 visa (aliens of extraordinary ability) enables individuals to enter and work in their field of specialty, the P visa does not allow individuals to work unless they meet the criteria set in the law. This having been said P visa applicants do not have to have reached the pinnacle of their careers like O1 visa applicants, but P visa applicants do need to be nationally, or internationally known. For example, the group may have performed in other countries, or tour their own country and known to the community appreciating their artistic endeavors.

I have been saying for many years that the visa system is unfair for foreign artists. Take the story of Seny Daffe. Daffe was granted a visa that allows culturally unique artists entry to the U.S. In Burlington, he joined the African dance company Jeh Kulu, where he taught drumming. He held dance classes and ran workshops at local schools. He performed with the National Ballet of Guinea and performed at First Night events across the state.

In November, Daffe returned to Conakry, Guinea, to visit his family and brush up on his skills. But when he tried to come back to Vermont, he learned that he was now barred by State Department officials from returning to the U.S.

Daffe says the State Department told him that his ties to this country were too strong – his ties to his own country too weak. The question was whether he intended to eventually return to Guinea. This is a common reason for denials.