Dear Members, Locals and Musician Representatives:
We regret to inform that USCIS, primarily the Vermont Service Center, is in a state of severe backlog. Please note that USCIS does not notify petitioners, we find out when our files are not processed on time, are approved at the last minute, or only approved on time after congressional intervention. While USCIS does regularly post the submission-date of petitions the adjudicators are currently processing, that date is not typically not applicable to the processing of artist permits, which by USCIS internal policy should be processed within 14 calendar of days receipt.
Our regular processing time of 35-45 calendar days has now increased to a minimum of 56 calendar days – so allowing for 60 calendar days or more is best. If you do not have 56+ days before you are required to enter the United States, there are two options:
1. Either at the outset of applying or 25 calendar days before your date of entry, pay the additional premium processing fee of $1,225 USD, which must be remitted under separate money order and is also payable to Department of Homeland Security (the premium fee is in addition to the $325USD petition fee payable to Department of Homeland Security), or,
2. Try to arrange a Congressional Expedite of your petition, by doing the following after your file has been issued a Receipt Number by USCIS, which can take upwards of 20 day:
a) The first US Venue must contact their local congress person's or senator's office
b) The congress or senators aide contacts will contact the AFM office and send a waiver for the AFM petitioner [staff] of your file to complete
c) The AFM petitioner will return the waiver along with a copy of the USCIS issued Receipt Notice
d) Congress/Senator Aide contacts Vermont Service Center Congressional Unit which will locate and process the petition within 48-hours. The approval will then be sent to Congress/Senator Aide who will in turn forward to the AFM petitioner who will send to the designated contact on your file
3. As some of you may be aware, there is another expedite process ["transitional expedite”] offered by USCIS, but it is not very effective most of the time. USCIS should take internal expedite action on any artist work permit petitions which have been pending for longer than 14 days, but in most instances the USCIS customer service agent will not start an internal expedite until the file has been pending for 60 days or longer, making the above options the most viable.
In the meantime, the AFM, along with its coalition members comprising the Performing Artist Visa Task Force/Working Group continue to lobby USCIS and US government for improvements to the processing of artist permits and have recently prepared a communication to USCIS officials addressing the delayed processing of all categories of artist permits.
The AFM staff will continue to serve you to the best of their abilities, but we ask for your patience and understanding during this period of backlog because each file now requires double the work to stay as the staff do their best to get every file approved as quickly as possible.
If you have any additional questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to email me directly, Liana White, firstname.lastname@example.org