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House passes measure to curb visa abuse in the entertainment industry

Given our warm climes, unique cityscapes and ecological diversity, it's really no surprise to learn that a television series or movie is shooting anywhere in Florida. Indeed, the Gold Coast has been featured in countless productions, many of them truly memorable.

It's important to understand that in addition to all of the logistics that must be addressed when planning a production here in Florida -- or anywhere else in the country for that matter -- there are often unique legal issues that must also be addressed. For instance, if the director and/or crew members are from another country, it will be necessary to secure O visas.

For those unfamiliar with the O visa program, it was created by Congress back in 1990 as a means of temporarily admitting not just artists and athletes, but also directors, crew members and other craftspeople.

While the terms of the program calls for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration to consult with the necessary organizations to help assess the validity of visa applications, there has long been complaints among applicable organizations that this hasn't happened and, as a result, otherwise fraudulent applications have been approved.

One industry in particular that has proven to be very vocal about this issue is television and film, with the Directors Guild of America and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers all calling for improved efforts.

Interestingly enough, it appears that change is perhaps on the horizon as the House of Representatives approved the Oversee Visa Integrity with Stakeholder Advisories Act by voice vote just last week.

The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Mimi Walters (R-CA), would require USCIS to do the following:

  • Consult with organizations (DGA, IATSE, AMPTP, etc.) concerning the validity of O visa applications submitted by foreign directors and crew members
  • Notify organizations of O visa approvals and denials
  • Provide organizations with copies of application decisions  

While the bill has gained the support of the DGA and IATSE, it remains to be seen whether it will gain the necessary traction in the Senate.

If you have questions relating to the process of securing any type of visa or concerns relating to any immigration matter, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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