August 11, 2012 - AAO Expands Definition of "culturally unique" for the P-3 visa

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) recently issued a binding precedent decision concerning P-3 visas which will ultimately allow more foreign artists and entertainers the ability to visit the United States to participate in cultural events.  
What is the P-3 visa?  The P-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa (issued for temporary trips to the U.S.) granted to foreign nationals to enter into the U.S. to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group, in a program (i.e., performance or presentation) that is “culturally unique.”
What does “culturally unique” mean?  Until recently, USCIS considered it a form of art or entertainment that was traditional to the culture or region it purported to represent.  However, this strict definition has now been expanded courtesy of a recent case.  The case involved a musical group from Argentina which was denied a performing artists’ visa for failing to establish that their group’s performance was “culturally unique” as required for the P-3 visa classification.  When the Argentinian group appealed the decision, and corroborated their claim with expert written testimony and other evidence detailing the reasons for why their music was culturally unique, the AAO agreed and redacted the definition of culturally unique.  The AAO added to the definition that culturally unique may include “artistic expression that is deemed to be a hybrid or fusion of more than one culture or region.” 
Since this case was selected as a precedent decision by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and precedent decisions are legally binding on the DHS components responsible for enforcing immigration laws, this new broadened understanding of what “culturally unique” means is vital.  Now artists and entertainers seeking to visit the United States have a conspicuously higher chance of obtaining a P-3 visa than ever before.

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