Visa Processing for Foreign Guest Artists



American nonprofit arts organizations provide an important public service by presenting foreign guest artists in performances, educational events, and cultural programs in communities across the country.

Foreign guest artists engaged by U.S. arts-related organizations are required to obtain an O visa for individual artists or a P visa for artist groups. Artists and nonprofit arts organizations have experienced uncertainty in gaining approval for visa petitions for these artists to travel to the U.S. Difficulties include lengthy processing times; conflicting interpretation of statute, inconsistent implementation of policies, additional expenses, and unwarranted requests for further evidence. The nature of scheduling, booking, and confirming highly sought after guest soloists and performing groups requires that the timing of the visa process be efficient and reliable.

As Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform, there is an opportunity for enduring improvements to be made to the visa process. Therefore we ask Congress to include enactment of the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision in any immigration reform effort.

Statute requires that USCIS process O and P visa petitions within 14 days. The ARTS provision would require that if petitions aren’t processed within this 14-day period, USCIS would have to treat the applications as Premium Processing cases to be adjudicated within 15 days without cost to the petitioner.

For more talking points and background information, see the 2015 Visa Issue Brief.

What We're Asking For


We urge Congress to:

  • Enact the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) provision, which will require USCIS to ensure timely processing for visa petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations. We urge USCIS to enforce current statutory requirements, which instruct them to process O and P arts visas in 14 days.
    • How would it work? The ARTS provision would reduce total maximum processing times for O and P nonprofit artist visa petitions to just under 30 days. Currently, USCIS provides Premium Processing within 15 calendar days for petitioners able to pay an extra $1,250 fee – which is unaffordable for most arts organizations. Under the ARTS provision, USCIS would be required to treat as a Premium Processing case—free of additional charge—any arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to process within the 14 days required in current law.
  • Take steps, in cooperation with the Administration, to persuade USCIS to take ongoing immediate administrative action to improve the artist visa process.
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Recent Activity

Outage at State Dept. Delays Visas

On June 19, the State Department reported a technical issue with the part of its visa processing system that performs security checks and identity verification. While this system is down, it is highly unlikely that visas will be issued. 

The State Department reports that it is working on a variety of solutions to this problem, yet it does not have an estimated date for when this problem will be resolved. The Department has created an FAQs page to answer common questions. You can also visit Artists from Abroad for more information.

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