Non-Immigrant Visa Service
GAMI/Simonds has been filing non-immigrant worker visas on behalf of performing artists and companies since 1985 - from soloists to companies with 60+ personnel and support crews.
In today’s world with its increasing challenges we strive to make the process as painless as possible and present each case so that it has the best chance of success. A major key to success is to plan well in advance. This reduces stress, lowers cost (by avoiding Premium Processing) and allows time for the unexpected.
Each case is unique and requires its own strategy for success. In demonstrating an artist’s qualifications for the O or P classifications (the appropriate classifications for the performing arts) is by no means as simple as providing a comprehensive bio and some reviews. While one must present artist / company generated press materials (biography, press excerpts, list of performance highlights, awards etc) - USCIS does not accept these at face value. Key elements of the press package - major awards, performances at prestigious festivals/venues, tours of various countries, reviews from major media outlets - must be supported with scans of award certificate(s), web concert announcement(s), festival or venue announcements, concert/cd reviews in their original format etc. All materials must be in English or accompanied by a translation.
In many cases, it is also necessary to provide documentation that supports the claim that an international award, concert venue, festival or media source is one with a “distinguished reputation”.
The rule of thumb is that the USCIS officer assigned the case has zero knowledge of the performing arts. Some will adhere to the letter the required qualifications, while others are less stringent. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Instances abound where the “distinguished reputation” of Carnegie Hall or the Bonnaroo Music Festival or Edinburgh Fringe was questioned.
At the outset of a case we provide a detailed list of the required materials and their formats along with various sample documents. We then create the petition(s), submit to the appropriate labor union(s) for the required labor consultation letter(s) and then submit to USCIS for the I-797 Approval Notice(s). GAMI/Simonds will provide guidance with the consulate procedure that is required following receipt of the approval notice that GAMI/Simonds petitions USCIS for. The exception are Canadian citizens for whom the I-797 Approval Notice and a valid passport is all that is required to enter and perform in the U.S.
Fixed fees are:
Labor union consultation letter fee: $250.00 - $300.00 (expedite service available with most for added fee)
USCIS Form I-129 & Supplement: $460.00 per petition (regardless of number of personnel on petition)
USCIS Form I-907 Premium Processing (if needed): $1,225.00 per petition
Actor’s Equity does not charge a fee for their consultation letters, however, they can take up to 4 weeks to provide.
GAMI/Simonds fee varies pending the length of the visa being applied for, the number of personnel involved, and other factors.
Consulate fee: $190.00 per visa issued
In some cases, an issuance fee is charged as well. The issuance fee is charged if the country from which the beneficiary comes from charges U.S. citizens a similar fee - to find out if you must pay an issuance fee go to the consulates web site.
WORD TO THE WISE.......
The ONLY classifications for performing artists are O (individuals) and P (groups of 2 or more).
Artists cannot perform in the U.S. with only a B-1/B-2 visa or in ESTA status regardless of whether or not the artist earns a fee, tickets are sold, the performance is to benefit orphans and widows, etc. Artists who enter either with a B-1/B-2 visa or in ESTA status entry are considered "visitors/tourists." However, there is a very narrow exception whereby artists performing at a "legitimate" booking conference or audition are legally eligible to do so in ESTA status (or with only a B-1/B-2 visa if they are not eligible for ESTA), provided the booking conference or audition is (a) closed to the public (which means the performance is restricted to producers, promoters, agents, mangers, or people who may actually engage the artists); (b) no tickets are sold; (c) no fees are paid to the artist (other than actual, itemized expenses); (d) and the artist does not intent to perform anywhere else or under any other circumstances whilst in the U.S.
If caught at the border entering with a B-1/B-2 visa or ESTA for the purposes of public performances, unless you get a CBP officer that is either ignorant of the statutes (not likely) or you actually have a case for your B1/B2 or ESTA you will be denied entry and put on the next flight back and barred from the US for a minimum of 5 years and a 6 month wait thereafter in applying for a visa – may even get to spend 48 hours in a jail at the airport – oh what fun! Note that CBP officers are very savvy when it comes to quickly googling someone’s name and lo and behold state: “I see you are performing at The Crossroads tomorrow night”.
So, if attempting to legally enter with a B1/B2, ESTA for a legitimate booking conference or audition, be prepared to argue legal nuances whilst standing in a crowded immigration hall.