NEWSFLASH: US to Carry Out 'EXTREME VETTING' on Visa Applications

The State Department wants to make it mandatory for all U.S. visa applicants to submit social media information, previous email addresses and phone numbers.

In documents due to be filed to the Federal Register today, it asserts a change that will require nearly every individual applying for a US visa to disclose any social media handles used on specific platforms in the past 5 years, as well as phone numbers and email addresses that have been used during the same time period.

This means that the social media channels of applicants could be scoured by officials, to get more of an insight into the credibility of their applications.

In recent years, social media, email and phone number logs were only sought from visa applicants identified for extra checks. That's about 65,000 people annually.  The new rules would apply to ALL applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and the State Department estimates this would now in turn affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants.

The following is from an article by The Washington Times:

"The Homeland Security Department had floated plans to track social media of immigrant applicants, but the State Department’s proposal would apply to others coming on temporary visas.

Some 14 million people would be affected by the request for information tied to visitors’ visas, and about 700,000 others would be affected in the immigration system, the department said in the documents.
Don Crocetti, a former senior fraud investigator for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said it makes sense to collect the information but that officers need to stay within privacy rules too.
He said in the immigration context, looking at social media can help an adjudicator assess whether the story the applicant is telling in applying for a benefit rings true — such as in the case of a marriage petition.

But Mr. Crocetti said someone’s refusal to turn over the passwords or other nonpublic social media information can’t be used on its own to deny approval."

Once the intended rule change is filed to the Federal Register today, the public will have 60 days to comment on it.

Keep an eye on our social media, and we'll be sure to keep you in the loop with any news or changes.

O-1 and P-1 Visas

Thinking about heading to the US to play a show? Doing some promo in the states?

Anyone wanting to work in the US would need to apply for the appropriate visa category.

There are 2 main categories for applicants in the Entertainment Industry, these are:

O-1

O1 visas are for individuals with ‘Extraordinary Ability’ within their fields, for example musicians, actors, athletes, scientists, etc..

Obtaining an O-1 visa is a two-stage process:

Step One – Petition

You should seek a Visa Agent or US attorney to put together a petition for you and file this with the USCIS. As part of the petition process, you would need an entity in the US who can act as petitioner for the work you will be undertaking. This could be a promoter, agent, record label etc. You will be expected to provide evidence on how you meet the O-1 criteria. Your Visa Agent or US attorney can provide you with a list of requirements.

If you have crew or supporting musicians travelling with you, they should apply for an O-2.

Once filed, USCIS will review your application and decide whether or not you meet the criteria. There are three possible outcomes;

  1. You receive an approved petition and can then move onto the second stage, attending a US embassy interview to get your visa stamp put in your passport (see step two).
  2. You receive a request for further information, meaning that USCIS feel your case is not strong enough and will need further evidence before making a final decision
  3. Your petition is denied due to not meeting the criteria. You would need to re-apply with stronger evidence.

It can take up to 8 weeks to receive a decision once the petition has been filed, however you can upgrade to premium processing, which guarantees a response within 15 calendar days. The O-1 visa can be valid for a maximum of 3 years.

Step Two – US Embassy Interview

Being in receipt of just the approved petition unfortunately doesn’t guarantee a visa. You must attend a US embassy for an interview where your passport will be stamped with the visa itself.

As part of the embassy process, you will be asked about your job role, your pay, what you plan to do in the US and how long you will stay. You should make your Visa Agent aware of any past criminal misdemeanours or problems with US immigration, however historic or minor and this can have impact the visa decisions and can cause long delays.

Where possible, you should apply in your home country as this can make the process a lot smoother.

 

P-1

P1 visas are for bands and groups of performers for example theatre groups, groups of athletes etc . The P-1 visa can be valid for a maximum of a year.

Obtaining an P-1 visa is also a two-stage process and the process works in the same way.

Any supporting musicians or crew should apply for the P-1S.

We are experts in petition based US visas and can assist you through the process. If you need O1 visa help or P1 visa help then please get in touch for more info and we’d be happy to assist.

email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or give us a call on +44 (0) 1743 892 660 any time.

UPDATE: Trump's Travel Ban

The US Supreme Court today approved a request from Donald Trump’s legal people to allow his on- off travel ban to take effect.

This bans national of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from coming to the US.

These are added to the citizens of North Korea and Venezuelan government people who are already banned.

However there are ongoing challenges to the ban still going through the lower courts so the situation may be short term.

The administration seems determined to ban travellers from those countries entering the US. The executive order was first passed in January .

There have been challenges to the legality of the order in various US courts. In February a Virginia district judge ruled that it was unconstitutional

The Hawaii court ruled that the ban was in effect anti Muslim by refuting the government assertion that it was not, despite the populations of the countries in question were more than 90% Muslim.

 

Written by MD Andy Corrigan.

SXSW 2018

Can you believe it’s that time again? The first batch of acts for SXSW festival have been announced and there is much excitement in the air for the emerging artists who have made the cut.

For the cynical among you, every silver lining has a cloud, and for some hopeful SXSW goers in 2017 this cloud was US immigration. The drama around visas for the 2017 SXSW will no doubt still be fresh in the minds of those who were affected, but for 2018 acts, it may be something they are completely unaware of. (http://www.vulture.com/2017/03/sxsw-all-the-musicians-who-cant-perform-visa-issues.html)

Here’s the skinny on what happened…

Some acts were denied entry at US Border when entering on ESTA / B-1 visas. This was a devastating blow as they were told by the embassy or SXSW themselves that they’ll be okay to perform using that visa. They were sadly misinformed. Performers were detained by CBP, sent home and advised to get proper work visas. This had a crushing effect on them, many losing hundreds of dollars, and untold missed opportunity.

This year to avoid all that stress and heartache, we’re advising all artists and their essential support staff to apply for proper work visas, especially if you’re considering tacking on additional dates around SXSW. Here’s our thinking;

Showcase performances in the US have always been a grey area, and entry in to the US is ultimately always determined by the CBP officer you when you step off the plane, and they’re not always as clued up about immigration law as you might expect. If you’re (un)lucky enough to draw the attention of a CBP officer and they Google you and see that you’re doing more shows than just an official SXSW showcase, expect to be in trouble if you don’t have a work visa!

Even though SXSW are advising performers to obtain a B visa instead of using ESTA, we would strongly recommend applying for a work visa to minimise the risks. Being denied entry would result in ESTA revocation and could jeopardise future US visa applications. P and O work visas are petition based, meaning the artist would require a US “sponsor” for the shows. If you’re only travelling for SXSW, then they can act as petitioner.

Viva La Visa are experts in US immigration and are happy to chat through your concerns and advise on what category of visa you would need to suit your needs. We can also assist with all aspects of the petition and visa process.

 

 

HOW TO AVOID A VISA NIGHTMARE!

 

Of all the many tasks involved in touring, organising visas and work permits is probably the most scary of the lot, and a job that often gets pushed to the very bottom of the to do list.

More often than not, visas are required for touring artistes and crew. The consequences of not getting it right can turn things into a horror story; one where your career may be affected.

Here at Viva La Visa we deal with visa and work permit applications for a wide variety of touring performers, from solo singer-songwriters, DJ duos all the way to stadium bands with dozens in their entourage.

Whatever the scale of your operation, the pointers listed below are a great place to start.

Get advice;

Your visa consultant will be happy to advise you on your visa needs, timescales and current regulations. Don’t rely solely on your past experience!

Allow enough time;

Visa processing can be lengthy! While it is possible to get some Consulates to process applications more quickly than their guideline times, this is not always possible. If you are applying for multiple visas the number of days needed soon mounts up.

Plan and budget;

Plan your visa schedule as soon as you put your tour plans together. Here at Viva La Visa we will work alongside the production staff for a tour right from the planning stage.

Know your Artist and Crew;

Do all your party have enough blank pages in their passport? Are their passports in good condition? Does everyone have a 2nd passport? Are there any skeletons in the closet that make come out and cause problems? We can walk you through this minefield to make the process as smooth as possible so all bases are covered.

Be Realistic

Both in terms of timescales and costs.

Visa and immigration costs should be as important a part of your tour budget as airfares and catering. In the current climate it is very risky to try and enter countries to perform on tourist visas. Cutting corners can be very costly in the end and often more trouble than its worth!

Do contact us if you have any questions regarding any aspect of visas, work permits or passports.

We are an email or phone call away 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

 

PLAYING IN THE USA

 

Performing in the US has always been regarded as an important step in any artist’s career and the opportunity to play there should be grasped with both hands

However, with very few exceptions work visas have always been required and these are both complicated and expensive to obtain.

This has led to a search for loopholes in US legislation that may permit certain musical activities without work visas and for some to risk entering the US to perform without the correct visa.

The relentless advance of communications technology has increased the chances of getting caught if trying to enter the US to work without the correct visa. The CBP (border officials) will Google anyone they suspect and send home anyone attempting to work illegally.

It is always safest to seek advice before deciding whether a work visa is needed (we are happy to speak to any potential applicant and give a free of charge appraisal of their situation).

Obtaining a US work visa is a two-stage process and takes a minimum of around 4 weeks to get a visa stamp in your passport and be heading off to the airport.

It’s best though to start the process as soon as you can, as there are sometimes unforeseen delays along the way and the US official line is that travel shouldn’t be booked until you have your visa.

That said, in an emergency applications can sometimes be pushed through more quickly.

The first stage is to get an I129 petition approved by the USCIS (US government department). This is the equivalent of a work permit.

The second is to attend an interview at a US Embassy where applicants are questioned and their application documents reviewed and all being well the visa is issued.

There are two main categories of US visa that are appropriate for musicians; P1 for musical groups and O1 for individuals. Both have sub categories for ‘essential support staff’ that is backing musicians and crew.

In order to qualify there are certain requirements:

A US organisation to act as petitioner. This can be a record company, promoter, booking agent etc. There needs to be a contractual relationship between them and the applicant

  • Some work booked in the US - a proposed itinerary should be provided.
  • Evidence of meeting the criteria of bring ‘internationally known’ for P1 groups and ‘internationally renowned’ and ‘outstanding’ for O1s. Typically this would consist of press, discogarphy, awards , endorsement letters etc.
  • Applicants with criminal histories and previous US immigration difficulties should flag these up as soon as possible as they can make applicants ineligible to receive a visa but many of these ineligibilities can be overcome although this may lengthen processing time.

Costs:

These can vary from application to application and at Viva La Visa we are happy to give you a quote based on your individual needs. As a rough guide total costs for petition and visas for a group range from around £3,000.00 - £12,000.00 depending on numbers of applicants.

If you have any questions regarding any aspect of working in the US please feel free to contact us at Viva La Visa. (www.vivalavisa.co.uk) email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01473 892660 and one of our experts will be happy to help. We're also on Facebook and Twitter, if you wanted to keep up to date with our endeavours!

 

Blog

NEWSFLASH: US to Carry Out 'EXTREME VETTING' on Visa Applications

Friday, 30 March 2018
The State Department wants to make it mandatory for all U.S. visa applicants to submit social media information, previous email addresses and phone numbers. In documents due to be filed to the Federal Register today, it asserts a change that will require nearly every individual applying for a US visa to disclose any social media handles used on... Read More...

O-1 and P-1 Visas

Wednesday, 07 February 2018
Thinking about heading to the US to play a show? Doing some promo in the states? Anyone wanting to work in the US would need to apply for the appropriate visa category. There are 2 main categories for applicants in the Entertainment Industry, these are: O-1 O1 visas are for individuals with ‘Extraordinary Ability’ within their... Read More...

UPDATE: Trump's Travel Ban

Wednesday, 06 December 2017
The US Supreme Court today approved a request from Donald Trump’s legal people to allow his on- off travel ban to take effect. This bans national of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from coming to the US. These are added to the citizens of North Korea and Venezuelan government people who are already banned. However there are ongoing... Read More...