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Special Reports

Visa Processing Countdowns

September 27, 2012

I. For regular visa processing*
(Recommended for those who plan ahead and don’t wish to spend an extra $1,225 for premium processing. )

180 days
File petition via air courier, with return air courier mailer.

150-170 days
Filing receipt should be in hand.

120 days
Check consular post web site and contact post if necessary to find out what the lead time is for making appointments.

Ask the post how far in advance it is willing to issue the relevant visa, in light of the artist’s scheduled travel time to the U.S. Consular practice varies in this regard, though posts have been encouraged to issue as far in advance as possible. Bear in mind that lead times stretch during the summer travel months and high holiday periods, and that all U.S. consular posts are closed on U.S. and host country national holidays.

90 days
Again check the USCIS current processing times for your I-129 Petition. If a petition filed through the regular filing process exceeds 14 days in processing times, immediately call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 800-375-5283 to initiate an inquiry into the status of your case.

Consider making the visa appointment, if dealing with a consular post with lengthy delays. Make the appointment for 60 days hence. Many posts will claim the petition must be approved before you can make the appointment. Let’s just say that unless the post asks for a copy of the approval notice, it is unlikely to check whether the petition is approved at that point, though it can ask for the file number, which you have.

60 days
Again check the USCIS current processing times for your I-129 petition. If they have slipped and you have not received a response from NCSC, contact them again and consider converting to premium processing! Why so early, when premium processing should only take up to 15 days?If you get an RFE instead of an approval, or if premium processing makes an error of some sort, those 60 days will evaporate in no time!

If the artist has not made the visa appointment at the U.S. consulate, urge him/her to do so, depending on what you’ve learned about consular lead times.

Double-check to be sure there have been no changes in consular procedure.

Have the artist complete the necessary consular processing forms and obtain the photograph. The artist can wait to pay the fee until you are certain USCIS has approved the petition.

Final Preparation
Once you receive the original approval notice, contact the visa applicant and reconfirm that the visa appointment has been made and that there still is sufficient time to ship the approval notice and a full copy of the petition to the applicant before the appointment. If need be, cancel the old appointment and make a new one, again bearing in mind that some posts will not issue the visa until fairly close to the scheduled travel time.

II. For premium visa processing
(Recommended for those who either can’t, won’t, or don’t plan ahead and can spend the extra $1,225 to speed up the process.)

If you plan to follow the premium process, do all the initial steps listed above except for checking the regular processing times before your anticipated filing date. Bear in mind that premium processing is supposed to respond within 15 days, with an approval, denial, request for evidence, or referral to the fraud unit. This means you cannot count on receiving an approval within the 15 days, just a response. For that matter, the premium processing units are staffed by humans! Occasionally they will make mistakes. If you can help it, don’t cut your timing so fine that you have no flexibility left. Note that given USCIS assurances about improving efficiency, regular processing might be more viable than it once was, but petitioners will still get better customer service with PPS.

120 days
Check the consular post web site, and contact the post if necessary to find out what the lead time is for making appointments.

Ask the post how far in advance it is willing to issue the relevant visa, in light of the artist’s scheduled travel time to the U.S. Consular practice varies in this regard, though posts have been encouraged to issue as far in advance as possible. Bear in mind that lead times stretch during the summer travel months and high holiday periods, and that all U.S. consular posts are closed on U.S. and host country national holidays.

90 days
Consider making the visa appointment, if dealing with a consular post with lengthy delays. Make the appointment for 60 days hence. Many posts will claim the petition must be approved before you can make the appointment. Let’s just say that posts do not check to determine whether the petition is approved at that point, but they can ask for the file number, which you have.

File the premium processing petition with USCIS via air courier, with return air courier mailer.

85-88 days
Email receipt should be received.

75 days
Email approval should be in hand. If not, and you have not received a faxed RFE, contact the premium processing unit by email or phonel, ask for the status, and plan to ask for a refund of the premium processing fee after the case is resolved, by again contacting the premium processing unit. You are entitled to a refund if you do not receive a response within 15 days of the filing date of your petition.

70-74 days
If you included an air courier return mailer with your filing, you should have the approval notice in hand. Otherwise, it could take a few more days. Confirm that the artist has made a visa appointment at the consular post.

Final Preparation
Once you receive the original approval notice, contact the visa applicant and reconfirm that the visa appointment has been made and that there still is sufficient time to ship the approval notice and a full copy of the petition to the applicant before the appointment. If need be, cancel the old appointment and make a new one, again bearing in mind that some posts will not issue the visa until fairly close to the scheduled travel time.

*Please see Visa Definitions and Acronyms

Reprinted from ArtistsfromAbroad with permission from the League of American Orchestras and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.


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