There have been several recent developments with respect to O and P visas:

On July 20, 2010, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued clarifying guidance on the “O” nonimmigrant visa petition with regard to determining the appropriate validity period of an approvable petition when a gap exists between two or more events reflected in the itinerary.

The memo explains that the validity dates for the O-1 visa classification are defined by the specific period of time required to perform or participate in a specific event. When reviewing an O-1 petition, the length of time between the scheduled events, also known as a gap, has sometimes been viewed as a gauge to determine whether an itinerary represented one continuous “event” or separate events requiring separate petitions.  

In certain cases where there has been a significant gap between events, adjudicators have sometimes concluded that a single petition was filed for separate events rather than a continuous event. In such cases, the petition may have been approved only for a validity period equal to the length of time needed to accomplish what appeared to be the initial specific event rather than the continuous event as represented by the petition.

The memo notes that there is no statutory or regulatory authority for the proposition that a gap of a certain number of days in an itinerary automatically indicates a new event. “The regulations speak in terms of tours and multiple appearances as meeting the ‘event’ definition.” The statutory and regulatory background provides flexibility on the length of validity period that may be granted. The memo states:

“The statute and regulations allow for an approval of an O-1 petition for a period necessary to accomplish the event or activity, not to exceed 3 years. Adjudicators should evaluate the totality of the evidence submitted to determine if the activities described in the itinerary are related in such a way that they would be considered an ‘event’ for purposes of the validity period. When the validity period requested is established though the submission of appropriate evidence, Service Centers should approve a petition for the length of the validity period requested where the law and regulations permit.”

The memo is available here.

In addition, USCIS promised during a public meeting with stakeholders on July 20, 2010 that processing times for regularly filed O and P visas for performers and athletes will not exceed 14 days. In some previous cases, adjudications reportedly have taken up to four months, and delays have led to missed performances.