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DGA, IATSE Applaud Bill to Curb Foreign Visa Abuse

The Directors Guild of America and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees have applauded the passage of a bill to prevent fraudulent U.S. visas from being issued to foreign directors and crew members.

The House of Representatives approved the bi-partisan legislation — H.R. 3636, the Oversee Visa Integrity with Stakeholder Advisories (O-Visa) Act — on Monday. The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate.

If enacted, the legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security to notify the DGA and IATSE of  approvals or denials of the O visas for foreign directors and crew members seeking to work on films and TV series shot in the U.S.

“This bipartisan bill is an important step in providing a level of transparency that will help ensure the security and integrity of the USCIS-administered O-1B and O-2 visa program which admits foreign directors, members of the director’s team, and craftspeople with extraordinary ability to temporarily work in the U.S on motion picture production,” the DGA and IATSE said.

The O visa program was established by Congress in 1990 to temporarily admit foreign directors, members of the director’s team, craftspeople, artists and athletes to include “who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.”

The program requires that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services consult with appropriate organizations — including IATSE, the DGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — regarding the validity of applicants in their areas.

“While the vast majority of those seeking O-1B and O-2 visas use the programs appropriately, for years we have expressed our concerns that the USCIS has been approving fraudulent applications that have not been subject to any review, and has refused to even notify us when insufficient applications are approved over our valid objections – undermining the statutory mandate and preventing us from fulfilling our obligations to Congress in this very important area,” the DGA and IATSE said.

“By requiring the USCIS to give us notice of a final visa ruling, we will be better able to assist them in identifying fraud and abuse, as well as protecting our national security,” they added.

The bill’s authors are Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY). The unions thanked them along with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers for their expertise and guidance; Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren for her unwavering support; and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for moving this legislation to its final passage.

The AMPTP said in a statement, “We applaud Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R-CA), Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and the rest of the House of Representatives on the passage of H.R. 3636. The O1-B visa program plays an important role in U.S. film and television production, and this bill is a big step in the right direction to help protect its integrity.”

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