Rep. Nadler Praises Passage of the O-Visa Act by the US House of Representatives

Jun 13, 2016 Issues: Jobs, Labor and the Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, praised today’s passage by the House of Representatives of H.R. 3636, the Oversee Visa Integrity with Stakeholder Advisories (O-VISA) Act.  Rep. Nadler was the lead Democratic cosponsor of the bill.

“I am pleased by today’s passage of the bipartisan O-VISA Act by the House of Representatives,” said Congressman Nadler.  “The O visa process is intended to ensure that only the most extraordinary and accomplished individuals – those who are so unique that they could not be replaced by an American worker – are granted an O visa.  The O-VISA Act would bring needed transparency to this process and preserve the integrity of the program, while helping protect the jobs of American artists and craftsmen in the film and television industries.”

O visas are reserved for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to perform temporary work in their field here in the United States.  For those seeking an O visa specifically to work on a motion picture or television production, the law requires that an individual have “a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement,” which must be “recognized in the field through extensive documentation.”

Through a unique provision in the law, an applicant for an O visa seeking to work on passaga film or television production must first obtain an opinion from the relevant labor organization in their field.  For example, a director must seek an opinion from the Directors Guild of America, and a set designer must consult with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.  As experts in their field, these organizations are in the best position to determine an applicant’s special qualifications.

In recent years, several unions have expressed concerns that a significant number of applicants for whom they have recommended denial have been admitted into the United States nonetheless.  In some instances, the unions have documented fraud on the part of the applicant, while in some cases, the government simply reached a different conclusion.  But, because the consulting union is never informed by the government whether a particular application was approved or denied, it is impossible to know the full extent of this problem.

The O-VISA Act would bring needed transparency to this process by requiring the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide a copy of any final determination to the consulting union.  This would enable the unions to have sufficient knowledge of how petitions are decided work with the government to ensure that foreign workers do not replace Americans on motion picture projects unless they meet the standard of extraordinary ability that is required under the law.