Treaty negotiations, new arts ed guidance, and visa fee increase

October 24, 2016

CITES treaty negotiations include musical instrument policies

The League of American Orchestras was a voice for the music community in what is being called "game changing" treaty negotiations over international protected species rules. The 17th conference of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was the largest event in the treaty's more than 40-year history, and the array of issues under consideration included two key areas that will impact the rules for musical instruments that cross borders among the 183 party countries. The League's Vice President for Advocacy Heather Noonan was credentialed by the U.S. government and participated September 24 through October 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The League spoke on the floor of the negotiations, hosted a special event open to all delegates featuring musicians from the Music Enlightenment Project, and partnered with other national and international music organizations and conservation leaders to find solutions for musicians that use their instruments internationally. Learn more about the outcomes and critical next steps for travel and trade with musical instruments in our special report.

Are the arts in your state's education reform plans?

The U.S. Department of Education has just issued guidance to states as they consider how to focus a new grant program that was created with passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015. The Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants are meant to be one of many strategies for states and local schools to use to improve access to a well-rounded education for all students. U.S. Secretary of Education John King has said, "A wide range of possible subjects in school, powerfully and creatively taught, can be exactly what it takes to make the difference between disengagement and a lifelong passion for learning." What can your orchestra do to make sure equitable access to the arts is part of the education reform conversation as ESSA implementation continues? Check out the latest issue of the League's Symphony Magazine for the article, "Music Education for All Students," and visit the League's ESSA Resource Center, where we continue to add up to date details on how to get involved.

Prepare for visa fee increase!

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a substantial increase in I-129 filing fees, effective for petitions postmarked on or after December 23, 2016. The Premium Processing fee remains $1,225. The following fees will increase:

  • The fee for the regular I-129 petition for a nonimmigrant worker will increase from $325 to $460.
  • The fee for the I-539 petition to extend/change status (used for spouses and dependents) will increase from $290 to $370.
  • The fee for the I-824 petition for action on an approved application or petition (usually used to request a duplicate I-797 notice of approval) will increase from $405 to $465.

On July 6, the League led a coalition submission of formal comments to USCIS raising serious concerns about the disproportionate increase of 42% in the fee increase for filing I-129 petitions, compared to the weighted average increase of 21% that USCIS is applying to other fees. This increase adds a significant burden to nonprofit arts petitioners considering the serious and persisting delays in visa processing that have already been creating a harmful impact for more than a year. Our comments urged USCIS to ensure that any fee increase be accompanied not merely by a maintenance of service, but by significant policy improvements. When the increase goes into effect on December 23, 2016, petitioners should keep a close eye on the timing and quality of visa processing, and please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so we can press USCIS headquarters to demonstrate measurable progress.

To avoid delays in processing, please note the fee change and plan accordingly. All petitions postmarked on or after December 23, 2016 should include the new fee of $460. Do not submit the higher fee any earlier than this date.

Access the League's full array of visa services and visit our website, for more information.