AAO Clarifies ‘Culturally Unique’ in P-3 Cases




The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) recently addressed the meaning of “culturally unique” for P-3 visas in 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. The California Service Center (CSC) initially 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. Fortunately, the AAO reversed this decision.

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 explained that the phrase “group of persons” allows for flexibility that could include unique artistic expression that crosses regional, ethnic, or other boundaries. Therefore, the “culturally unique” standard was met even though the art form was a hybrid of Jewish folk music and Latin music.

This AAO precedent decision is important for performers applying for P-3 visas.  In our increasingly global and mobile society, we will see more artistic expression that crosses regional, ethic or other boundaries.  Every group, individual or immigration attorney applying for a P-3 visa, where the music could be considered ‘cross cultural,’ should make sure to read the Skirball case before submitting their petition.