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AAO Endorses Cross-Cultural P-3 Petitions


The AILA FACES Committee (Fashion, Athletics, Culture, Entertainment, and Science) recently discussed the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO)’s decision addressing cross-cultural P-3 petitions.

The USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) recently issued a precedent decision addressing the meaning of “culturally unique” in the P-3 context.Matter of Skirball Cultural Center, 25 I&N Dec. 799 (May 15, 2012). Skirball involved a group of Argentine musicians performing music that blends klezmer (a form of Jewish folk music) with Argentine influences – better described as “South American klezmer.” The California Service Center (CSC) had denied the P-3 petition, finding that the music could not be culturally unique if it is based on a hybrid of artistic styles from more than one culture or region. In this case, Argentine musicians performing klezmer music did not fit the CSC bill.

Adopting a different view, the AAO held that while a style of artistic expression must be exclusive to an identifiable people or territory to qualify as “culturally unique,” it is not limited to traditional art forms and can include a “hybrid or fusion” art form from more than one culture or region. Citing 8 CFR §214.2(p)(3), the AAO noted that the regulations require a style of artistic expression, methodology or medium that is unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons. The AAO went on to explain that the phrase “group of persons” allows for flexibility that could include unique artistic expression that crosses regional, ethnic, or other boundaries. In Skirball, the identifiable group was a Jewish community whose presence in Argentina was “distinct.” Therefore, the “culturally unique” standard was met even though the art form was a hybrid of Jewish folk music and Latin music.

Skirball also provides guidance on P-3 evidentiary requirements, specifically, expert opinion letters. The AAO explained that USCIS may reject or give less weight to an expert opinion letter if it is not in accord with other information contained in the petition or is in any way questionable. Citing 8 CFR §214.2(p)(6)(ii)(A), the AAO noted that the experts’ credentials were uncontroverted, the experts themselves were knowledgeable about the group’s musical skills, and the testimony provided appeared reliable, relevant, and probative as to the specific facts in issue.

Under 8 CFR § 214.2(p)(6)(ii), a P-3 petition must be accompanied by:

  1. Affidavits, testimonials, or letters from recognized experts attesting to the authenticity of the alien’s or the group’s skills in performing, presenting, coaching, or teaching the unique or traditional art form and giving the credentials of the expert, including the basis of his or her knowledge of the alien’s or group’s skill; or
  2. Documentation that the performance of the alien or group is culturally unique as evidenced by reviews in newspapers, journals, or other published materials; and
  3. Evidence that all of the performances or presentations will be culturally unique events.

If you use expert opinions, be aware of the particular requirements embedded in the regulation. Each opinion, whether in the form of a letter, affidavit, or testimonial, must:

a) Be from a recognized expert. Include the expert’s detailed CV.

b) Attest to the authenticity of the alien’s/group’s skills in performing, presenting, coaching, or teaching. The expert should explain why the artist or group is skilled or knowledgeable about the culture of the particular country and the culture being expressed by the art form.

c) Speak to the unique or traditional art form. The expert should describe the art form in detail.

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