by Liana White, AFM Executive Director, Canada
We regret to inform Canadian travelling musicians that USCIS, primarily the Vermont Service Center, is severely backlogged. Please note that USCIS does not notify petitioners. We find out when our files are not processed on time, are approved at the last minute, or are only approved on time after congressional intervention. While USCIS regularly posts the submission date of petitions the adjudicators are currently processing, that date is not typically applicable to the processing of artist permits, which by USCIS internal policy, should be processed within 14 calendar of days receipt.
Our regular processing time of 35-45 calendar days has now increased to a minimum of 56 calendar days—so allowing 60 calendar days or more is best. If you do not have 56+ days before you are required to enter the US, there are two options:
1) At the outset of applying, or 25 calendar days before your date of entry, pay the additional premium processing fee of $1,225US. It must be remitted under a separate money order payable to Department of Homeland Security. (This fee is in addition to the $325US petition fee payable to Department of Homeland Security).
2) Try to arrange a congressional expedite of your petition after your file has been issued a receipt number by USCIS, which can take upwards of 20 days. Follow this process:
- a) The first US venue must contact their local congressional or senatorial representative.
- b) A congress or senate aide contacts the AFM office and sends a waiver for the AFM petitioner (staff) of your file to complete.
- c) The AFM petitioner returns the waiver with a copy of the USCIS issued receipt notice.
- d) The congress/senate aide contacts Vermont Service Center Congressional Unit, which will locate and process the petition within 48 hours. The approval is then sent to the aide who, in turn, forwards it to the AFM petitioner, who will send it to the designated contact on your file.
There is one other way offered by USCIS to expedite the process (“transitional expedite”), but it is not effective most of the time. USCIS should take internal expedite action on any artist work permit petitions that have been pending for longer than 14 days. However, in most instances, the USCIS customer service agent will not start an internal expedite until the file has been pending for 60 days or longer, making the two previous options the most viable.
In the meantime, the AFM, along with its coalition members comprising the Performing Artist Visa Task Force/Working Group, continue to lobby the USCIS and the US government for improvements to the processing of artist permits. We have recently prepared a communication to USCIS officials addressing the delayed processing of all categories of artist permits.
AFM staff will continue to serve you to the best of their abilities, but we ask for your patience and understanding during this period of backlog. Each file now requires double the work as the AFM staff does its best to get them approved as quickly as possible.
If you have any additional questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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