Thursday, December 3, 2009

USCIS Issues Memorandum Explaining Its Policy on Agent-Petitioners in O and P Visa Cases

Often an O or P visa holder will be in the United States on a string of engagements, with multiple employers. In such a scenario, it has been most efficient for one company to serve as an agent for all of the remaining employers in the itinerary. In October 2009, USCIS issued a statement regarding such filings. Specifically, it announced that such filings by one employer would only be approved where the petitioner can establish that it is “in business” as an agent. This pronouncement, which was covered earlier in this blog, led to calls for elaboration from USCIS as to what "in business as an agent" actually meant, as the term is not defined in the O or P regulations.

USCIS has issued a policy memorandum (a public document that has USCIS officers and personnel as its intended audience) on this issue. Significantly, the memo has clarified that a petitioner will be deemed to be "in business as an agent," even if only for that specific visa petition. In other words, the petitioner does not need to demonstrate that it normally serves as an agent as a matter of course, outside the context of the petition. The memo also enumerates the kind of evidence that would satisfy the "in business as an agent" requirement. This evidence can include contracts, fee arrangements, or certifications from other employers listed in the itinerary that the petitioner has been authorized by them to serve as their agent.

The memorandum further cautions that petitioners for a P visa under the "U.S. sponsoring organization" category must not directly employ the P-1, P-2 or P-3 alien, but rather must

assume responsibility for the accuracy of the terms and conditions specified in the petition.

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