All Artists Should Travel With A Copy of Their I-797 Petition Approval Notice

We hope everyone had a wonderful summer holiday. Soon the lull of sun and rum will crash into the reality of a new performance season, and with that, the challenges of international touring. So, here’s a quick tip to start everyone off: when non-U.S. artists travel to the US for their engagements, always make sure they travel with a copy of their I-797 Petition Approval Notice.
An artist was recently detained at a U.S. airport for attempting to enter the U.S. on an erroneous “5-year O-1 visa.” (NOTE: There are only for athletes. If you artist has erroneously been issued one of these, she has NOT won the lottery!) Ultimately, he was permitted to enter only because he happened to have a copy of his I-797 O-1 Petition Approval Notice indicating that his upcoming U.S. engagement was within the actual approved classification period of 7 months. However, he was reminded to ignore the expiration date on his O-1 visa and not to enter the U.S. after the O-1 classification period listed on the I-797 Petition Approval Notice.

Another artist was less fortunate. He was actually refused entry on a P visa because a U.S. Immigration officer claimed that he needed to have a copy of his I-797 approval notice. The U.S. Immigration Officer was wrong. Nonetheless, the artist had to fly home and be booked on a return flight to the U.S. the next day. Aggravatingly, but not surprisingly, when the artist flew back to the U.S. the next day with a copy of her I-797 Approval Notice, a different U.S. Immigration Officer didn’t ask for anything and admitted the artist without any questions.

Only Canadian citizens are required to travel with copies of their I-797 Petition Approval Notices because Canadian citizens are not required to obtain physical visas in their passports. However, we had a Canadian artist arrive in the U.S. with a copy of her I-797 Petition Approval Notice and be refused entry because the U.S. Immigration Officer claimed that she needed to have the original. The U.S. Immigration Officer was wrong on this occasion as well. Fortunately, a supervising officer was able to step in and resolve the matter so that the artist was ultimately able to enter.

The moral of this story is like many others we have told: never presume any U.S. official (whether at USCIS, the consulates, or the port of entry) is familiar with the rules and regulations applicable to artist visas. To be fair, the rules are many and artists are few. Also, everyone at all levels of the process has been placed on high alert for fraud without always being told exactly what they are looking for. So, we are recommending that all artists travel with a copy of their I-797 approval notice and at least be prepared to explain their situation. Should any artist be asked for an “original” approval notice, he or she should calmly and politely ask to speak with a supervising immigration officer. More often than not, the supervising officers are better trained than the overworked and exhausted officers assigned to the inspection desks.

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!

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.

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!
Author: Brian Taylor Goldstein and Robyn Guilliams
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