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Home » Officer Columns » New Directive from USCIS

New Directive from USCIS

  -  AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

The AFM (along with other unions) plays an important role in the nonimmigrant visa application process for foreign artists desiring to enter the US temporarily to perform and tour. Each application for an O or P visa must include a consultation letter generally provided by a labor union. There are times a union may find the applicant does not meet the criteria necessary to provide a favorable consultation letter. Cases of fraudulent use of these letters have occurred where the union’s letterhead is copied, dates are changed, and even signatures are forged to acquire the needed visas.

Last year, the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) of the AFL-CIO hosted a meeting with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna and the coordinating committees of several Arts, Entertainment and Media Industry (AEMI) unions.  (AEMI is a coalition of 12 unions charged with advancing the interests of creative professionals.) The USCIS oversees the visa application process for those artists desiring to enter the US to perform.

At the meeting, which AFM Touring/Theater/Booking Director George Fiddler and I attended, suggestions were made as to how we might combat the fraudulent consultation letters. We were pleased that USCIS Director Cissna listened and has implemented a suggestion made at the meeting. What began as a pilot initiative for O visas has now been expanded to include P visas.

DPE statement on USCIS’s announcement regarding P visa consultation process:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2019 — Last week US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that labor unions can directly send consultation letters to USCIS in instances when unions are not providing a letter that is favorable to a P-1, P-2, or P-3 nonimmigrant visa petitioner. The P visa category is used by athletes, artists, entertainers, and support personnel who want to work temporarily in the United States. A petitioner that seeks a P visa must submit a consultation letter from the appropriate union in its application materials to the US government.

AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE) President Jennifer Dorning issued the following statement in response to this USCIS directive:

“DPE and our affiliate unions in the arts, entertainment, and media industries commend USCIS and Director L. Francis Cissna for continuing to address serious fraud and abuse within both the O and P visa programs. Unscrupulous petitioners submitting consultation letters on fraudulently altered union letterhead is an issue across visa categories. Our unions take seriously their role as advisors in both the O and P visa petition process because it is through this advisory role that these unions can help maintain pay and working conditions, safeguarding the economic interests of all professionals working in the industry. When low-road petitioners abuse the O or P visa approval process, they undermine the ability of our unions to maintain the workplace standards their members fought hard to achieve.

We view USCIS’s February 8th announcement as a continuation of needed reforms to the O and P visa consultation process, and look forward to further reforms that more fully address misuse of the consultation process.”

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