By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.

For those of you who are unaware, on February 28, 2018 U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), both former chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have introduced the Arts Require Timely Service Act (ARTS Act); a bill that would require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide premium processing (15-day turnaround) free of charge for any arts-related O or P visa petition that it fails to adjudicate within 14 days as required by law. You can read the official press release here:

Many people have already asked us to weigh in on this development.

Be careful what you ask for.

First, and foremost, I must express my sincere awe and admiration with regard to the amazing and tireless arts advocacy of many people, but particularly that of Heather Noonan of the League of American Orchestras, who have been working on this for years. Given that this is actually a bill that is being “re-introduced”, having been previously introduced and rejected, getting it back on the table for re-consideration is nothing less than heroic.

However, as to my thoughts? Let me first share two recent Requests for Evidence (RFE) issued by USCIS which were brought to our attention. One asked for further evidence as to whether or not an artist who led a group which also bore the name of the artist performed a “critical role” with the group. The requested clarification as to an artist’s actual country of nationality where the petitioner wrote the word “German” as opposed to “Germany” on the i-129 form where it asked for “Country of Citizenship.” Given such stellar cognitive abilities, you can forgive my hesitation if my heart does not sing out to the heavens in joy and tearful gratitude over the prospect of merely speeding up a broken, illogical, frustrating, and inane process as opposed to actually proposing anything substantive to fix it. Its like offering the captain of the Titanic the option of actually averting the iceberg and, instead, having him decide merely to speed up the ship and get the disaster over with more quickly.

Its also important to understand that term “adjudicate” does not mean “approve.” An “adjudication” merely means that USCIS will review the petition and either approve it or issue an RFE. When an RFE is issued, the adjudication process is put on hold until the petitioner responds to the RFE. So, if passed, the prosed bill would provide that USCIS either has to approve a petition or issue an RFE within 14 days after a petition is received, or USCIS will be required to spew out some sort of inane dribble free of charge within the next 15 days to stop the clock and buy itself some more time. In short, if you want to guarantee any adjudication in less than 30 days, a petitioner will still be required to pay an additional $1225 for Premium Processing.

Nonetheless, given the lack of any meaningful acknowledgement or support of the arts on the part of the U.S. Government, I am always grateful for any crumbs that are tossed to us, however inadvertently, from the banqueting table. Still, I’d personally rather forgo free expedited USCIS processing time if it meant that, in exchange, USCIS would implement some sort of meaningful screening process when hiring USCIS examiners, as opposed to the current system of requiring only a pulse, potty training, and a patriotic dedication to protecting the American way of life from nefarious violinists.

In the meantime, I’ll take my crumbs, crawl back into my hole, and work on visa petitions.


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