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The P-3 Visa Application for Artists and
Entertainers under a Program that is Culturally Unique

1. P-3 Visas - Culturally Unique Groups

There are a number of different visa options available to artists and entertainers to perform in the U.S. The P-3 visa is available to both groups and individuals for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a culturall unique ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation.

P-3 visas are available to artists or entertainers who come to the U.S., either individually or as part of a group, to develop, interpret, represent, teach, or coach in a program that is considered culturally unique. The program may be of either a commercial or noncommercial nature.

The P-3 visa category covers artists and entertainers, including groups, who will perform "under a program that is culturally unique." The USCIS adopted the view that the performers must be part of a program that is culturally unique. 

The artist or entertainer must be coming to the U.S. for cultural events to further the understanding or development of his or her art form, and be sponsored primarily by educational, cultural, or governmental organizations which promote such international cultural activities and exchanges. Petitioners have to submit evidence addressing the cultural uniqueness of the performance and evidence that all performances are culturally unique. 

  • A P-3 classification may be accorded to artists or entertainers, individually or as a group, coming to the United States for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. 

  • The artist or entertainer must be coming to the United States to participate in a cultural event or events which will further the understanding or development of his or her art form. The program may be of a commercial or noncommercial nature. 

2. The "Culturally Unique” Requirement for P-3 Visa Application

The P-3 visa is for artists or entertainers who come to United States to develop, interpret, represent, teach, or coach in a program that is considered culturally unique, either individually or as part of a group. The art or entertainment program may be of either a commercial or noncommercial nature. 

USCIS views “cultural unique” as synonymous with traditional or historically tied to a particular culture in some fashion. This means artists qualifying for P-3 visas primarily practice some type of traditional art form. This includes varied acts as folk dancers, bagpipers, acrobats, kabuki performers, flamenco dancers, chanson singer, or bharatanatyam dancers. P-3 performers can often trace the history of their art form back hundreds and even thousands of years, but that is not always the case.

The “culturally unique” requirement has a significant role in the adjudication of P-3 visa applications for performing artists and entertainers. In many cases, musical groups and entertainers from foreign countries were denied a P-3 visa for failing to establish that their performance was “culturally unique” as required for the P-3 visa classification.

Generally, a “culturally unique” style of art or entertainment is not limited to traditional art forms, but may include artistic expression that is deemed to be a hybrid, or fusion of more than one culture or region. 

Due to the complex and novel issue in P-3 visa applications, the P visa regulatory definition of “culturally unique” requires USCIS adjudicators to make a case-by-case factual determination, and USCIS adjudicators will review the entire record of the musical groups or entertainers, which included expert written testimony, and corroborating evidence on behalf of the musical group or entertainers.

3. Qualifying for P-3 Visa by Blending of Cultures to Create Art

P-3 visas are one avenue of allowing culturally unique artists to perform in the United States. While this can mean performances of older, more traditional art forms, the category also allows for performances by artists who blend and merge various cultures and styles to create new forms of unique art. This is what helps to make the U.S. such a great nation.

U.S. laws and court decisions recognize the importance of sharing and learning about cultures through art forms from around the world, that educate and illuminate all of us to foster appreciation and encourage richer and more vibrant cultural blending.

The USCIS allows for the blending of cultures to create a new, unique art form. In one AAO case, USCIS determined that a group of Argentinean performers that combined klezmer (Jewish music of Eastern Europe) with Latin and South American influences qualified as culturally unique.

The AAO concluded that a mixture of different traditions, practices, or styles could be combined to create something new. The law was flexible enough to allow for this new style to be something that is culturally unique to a “group of persons.” In this case, the group of persons is South Americans born to Eastern European immigrants with a distinct Jewish Argentine culture and identity.

Along similar lines, many culturally unique artists combine traditional art with other more contemporary influences. This is does not preclude the artist from qualifying as culturally unique. As long as the traditional art form’s influences are reflected in the final performance, the argument can be made that the artist or group in question qualifies for the P-3 visa.

4. The Evidentiary Criteria for a P-3 Visa Application Involving a Culturally Unique Program

For the alien applicant, your U.S. employer or sponsoring organization must submit Form I-129, Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker. A petitioner who will be filing as an agent for multiple employers must establish that it is duly authorized to act as an agent. 

The P-3 applicant must be coming to United States to participate a cultural event or events that will further the understanding or development of an art form. For P-3 visa application, the U.S. employer should submit an application to USCIS on behalf of the alien applicant. A petition for P-3 visa shall be accompanied by: 

  • A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization; 

  • Affidavits, testimonials, or letters from recognized experts attesting to the authenticity of the alien's or the group's skills in performing, presenting, coaching, or teaching the unique or traditional art form and giving the credentials of the expert, including the basis of his or her knowledge of the alien's or group's skill;

  • Documentation that the performance of the alien or group is culturally unique, as evidenced by reviews in newspapers, journals, or other published materials; and 

  • Evidence that all of the performances or presentations will be culturally unique events. 

5. The Period of Stay, and the Extension of Stay

Initial Period of Stay: time needed to complete the event, activity or performance, not to exceed 1 year 

Extension of Stay: increments of up to 1 year in order to continue or complete the event, activity or performance. The Form I-129 is used to apply for a change of status, extension of stay or change of employment.

Change of Employer: you may change employers, but only after your new employer has filed a new Form I-129 with USCIS requesting permission to employ you and extend your stay. You may not commence employment with the new employer until the Form I-129 has been approved.

Family of P-3 Visa Holders: your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may obtain P-4 status. Your dependents may not engage in employment, but may attend school or college.

6. The P-3 Visa for an Essential Support Alien 

An essential support alien may be granted P-3 classification based on a support relationship with a P-3 entertainer or P-3 entertainment group. A petition for P-3 essential support personnel must be accompanied by: 

  • A consultation from a labor organization with expertise in the area of the alien's skill;

  • A statement describing the alien prior essentiality, critical skills and experience with the principal alien; and

  • A copy of the written contract or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement between the alien and the employer.

7. How to Apply for a P-3 Visa at an American Consulate

To apply for the P-3 visa at an American Consulate, you should provide a copy of the Notice of Action, Form I-797, the approval notice forwarded to U.S. employer by USCIS when the petition is approved. The P-3 visa application must include the following documents:

a) DOS Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application;

b) A copy of your passport which is valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay in the U.S. and with at least one blank page;

c) Passport style color photograph showing full face without head covering against a light background. You may wear a headdress if required by a religious order of which you are a member, This can be uploaded at the time you complete the DS-160;

d) A letter from your U.S. employer detailing your position and a statement that you possess skills essential to the performance of the job offered.


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