We had the pleasure of participating in a teleconference held by USCIS on March 24, 2011, specifically on the issue of “Agents as Petitioners” for O1 visas, which in and of itself will be a topic for future discussion, as there was a tremendous amount of light shed on the area. But, more pressing and immediate is one of the topics avidly discussed in the teleconference, Itinerary and Contract requirements for O1 visas.

Within the last few months USCIS has been issuing many Requests for Evidence (RFE) on O1 visa petitions for specific itineraries and contracts for events/productions which the O1 visa holder will be performing during the pendency of the O1 visa. Even though this has always been requirement, in the past USCIS has not requested clarification on itineraries and contracts as they currently are. Again, there is a ton of information to discuss here, but we will focus on what is now required.

For O1 petitions where an Agent if performing as a sponsor, but not an employer, for example a typical Agent/Artist relationship, what are the requirements?

Firstly, a contract between the actual employer (a production company for an artist) and the beneficiary (artist) is required to be submitted with an O1 petition filed by an Agent as sponsor. The contract between the “traditionally self-employed” artist and the employing company provides USCIS with evidence that an actual job if offered and that the beneficiary will be coming to the US to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

USCIS will accept either a written or an oral contract. The contract must demonstrate what was offered by the actual employer and what was accepted by the beneficiary. If an oral contract was entered into, the document evidencing the oral contract does not have to be signed by both Parties, which is counterintuitive, but allowed, to establish that there is an oral agreement. However, it must document the terms of the employment offered and that the beneficiary has agreed to the offer. Such evidence may include but is not limited to:

• E-mails between the contractual parties

• A written summation of the terms of the agreement

• Any other evidence which demonstrates that an oral agreement was created

What about the Itinerary in this situation? When the beneficiary uses a U.S. Agent to file the petition, the petition must be accompanied by a complete itinerary of the events or activities. The itinerary must specify:

(1)   The dates of each service or engagement

(2)   The names and addresses of the actual employers

(3)   The names and addresses of the establishments, venues, or locations where the services will be performed.

This means that traditionally self-employed professions, such as Actors & Musicians, will have to provide deal memos and contracts for future work to be issued their O1 visas.

Much, much more to come on these changing issues….