Info You Can Use: Foreign Guest Visas

Arts Presenters has recently alerted their membership to a proposed change in the way visas for foreign artists are evaluated. According to Artists From Abroad, O Visas are given to “only one alien of extraordinary ability in the arts entering the U.S. to work in his/her area of expertise. “Extraordinary ability” for purposes of the arts is not an especially high standard. It means “distinction” which, in turn, means a high level of achievement in the field, substantially above that ordinarily encountered.”

This differs from the P-1 and P-3 visas, the first of which applies to groups of note with a long term association and the latter which requires cultural uniqueness.

The nature of my work is such that I don’t use O visas. As I understand it, the problem with emerging with the O visa is that Customs and Immigration are proposing “45-day cap on the amount of time allowable between engagements.” Since an O visa can be valid for up to three years, it is feasible there would be gaps in activity of 45 days here and there during this time.

If you do use O visas or have the potential of doing so, you may want to review the page Customs and Immigration has set up soliciting feedback on the proposed changes.

If you need help framing your feedback, Arts Presenters is encouraging people to contact Leah Frelinghuysen, Director of Public Affairs.

Even if you don’t use O visas, Arts Presenters is advocating for changes in the whole visa process because it has been incredibly frustrating and problematic for people trying to bring tours together. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to provide feedback and comments as those policies (hopefully) come under review.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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