It Takes a Visa

I’ve seen an unusual amount of media awareness lately of  how people coming to the U.S. on temporary or permanent work visas can provide both a cultural and an economic boost to this country — and how (no one should be surprised here) tough those visas can be to get.

First, in the program/magazine for “The Wild Bride,” a hot-selling show at Berkeley Rep Theatre, there was a surprisingly long discussion of what it took, visa-wise, to bring the Kneehigh Theatre group “direct from England.”

The theatre’s general manager, Karen Racanelli, “worked several late nights, poring over substantial piles of federal paperwork.” (And that was with a lawyer’s help!)

The article goes on to describe how they applied for a P-1 visa for the on-stage ensemble, meant for internationally recognized entertainers; and a P-1S visa for their directors, designers, and assistants. Any or all of those visas could have been denied if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hadn’t been convinced that the ensemble had received a truly international level of recognition, or that a particular individual was inadmissible. (Even performers of tabloid-level fame aren’t immune from being found inadmissible — see, for example, my article on “International Celebrities Denied U.S. Entry Visas.”)

Look how hard the USCIS regulations make it to qualify for this visa, by saying that the entertainment group must have been: “recognized internationally as being outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time,” and that each person applying for the visa must have “had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group (ordinarily for at least 1 year) and provide[] functions integral to the performance of the group.” Gulp. Even if it’s true, what a bother to prove. (By the way, the regs are at 8 C.F.R. Section 214(p).)

Lucky for us viewers, everyone got their visas — and a good thing, because as Karen also noted, “They need their whole team together to do what they do.”

That wasn’t all for recent media mentions of visas. Angela Woodall of the Oakland Tribune recently ran an article called, “Oakland Eyes Pay-to-Play Visa Program for Ballpark, New Coliseum.” The EB-5 visa is on center stage this time, offering, as it does, an opportunity for international investors to gain a green card through a U.S. business investment of at least $1 million (or $500,000 in an economically troubled area).

Given Oakland’s need for capital, city leaders are actively looking for foreign investment for some of its big projects.

Getting an EB-5 green card is not as easy as laying down the cash, however. As the article notes, the investor receives a “conditional” green card that runs out after the first two years — and can be converted to permanent U.S. residence only if the investor meets various conditions in terms of having actually sunk the money in and created ten new U.S. jobs. A surprising number of investors are denied at this stage, and have to leave their money, and their new U.S. home, behind. For details on this visa, see these articles on “Investment-Based (EB-5) Green Cards.”