Beware of the Five-Year O-1 Visa! What You Petition For Is What You Get!

US Visas explained by legal expert, Brian Goldstein - just in time for summer workshops, festivals and masterclasses!

When a visa petition is approved by USCIS, it is approved for a specific classification period. When an artist then goes to a U.S. Consulate to apply for her or her visa, the visa issued is supposed to reflect the classification period of the approved petition. For example, if a violinist is approved for an O-1 classification period of August 1, 2015 to July 31, 2016, then the O-1 visa stamped into her passport should reflect an expiration date of July 31, 2016. If you examine an O or P visa, you will most often see the letters “PED” followed by a date. “PED” refers to the “Petition Expiration Date.” The PED date “should” coincide with the expiration date of the visa itself.

Unfortunately, some U.S. Consulates have erroneously been issuing O-1 visas that expire beyond the classification period of the approved petition—in some cases, O-1 visas have been issued for with a validity period of up to five years in the future! If this happens, your artist has not won the immigration jackpot! Under U.S. law, the maximum validity period of an O-1 visa for an artist cannot exceed three years. Moreover, it cannot exceed the classification period of the approved petition.

Recently, a prominent artist was turned away because she attempted to enter the U.S. under just such circumstances. A visa petition had been filed for her in 2014 and the petition was approved for an O-1 classification period of 8 months. However, the U.S. Consulate issued her an O-1 visa that did not expire until 2019. She and her management reasonably presumed that this meant she was free to use her O-1 visa until 2019 and no further visa petitions were required. Indeed, until recently, she had been entering the U.S. on the visa ever since 2014 without any trouble. Her past entries were the result of luck and inadvertence on the part of U.S. Immigration Officers at the port of entry. This will no longer be the case. All U.S. Immigration Officers will be scrutinizing all visas far more closely.

When USCIS approves a visa petition, it issues an I-797 Approval Notice with the specific dates of the approved visa classification period. If you or your artist ever receives a visa from a U.S. Consulate that expires beyond the dates of the classification period or beyond the PED date on the visa, ignore all dates beyond the PED date! Assume the visa expires on the PED date and do not use it for any work or travel beyond that date.

(For those of you who are actually interested in legal minutiae, there ARE, in fact, legitimate categories of 5 year O and P visas-- -they just don’t apply to artist categories. This is why the consulates can get easily confused.)

You can always find more information on our website: www.ggartslaw.com. And if there’s something in particular you want to know about, be sure to let us know! ________________________________________________________________________ THE OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE! The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. One size never fits all. Circumstances and solutions can, and do, vary. Please consult with a professional—legal, medical, or otherwise—familiar with your specific facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a nasty email, quoting us out of context, or doing anything rash!

Brian Taylor Goldstein and Robyn Guilliams are the founding partners of GG Arts Law, a New York-based entertainment law firm, as well as Managing Directors of Goldstein Guilliams International, through which they provide comprehensive business, project and tour management, and legal services exclusively to the international performing arts and entertainment community. Brian has twice been recognized as one of New York's "Super Lawyers" in the fields of Entertainment, Intellectual Property and Immigration in The New York Times and is a well-known speaker and author on arts and artist management. Robyn is an internationally recognized specialist in foreign artist taxation and artist business matters, as well as a Co-Author of Artistsfromabroad.org, with an impressive past career in arts administration and management at major venues and arts organizations.
Author: Brian Goldstein
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