U.S. Law Center

Dance studios are struggling with tougher immigration rules

Dance studio owners in California and around the country are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified instructors, and many of them say stricter visa application requirements are to blame. A Connecticut studio owner thought that she had finally found the perfect candidate after a year of advertising, but the Greek national she planned to hire was detained at a New York airport and sent back to Europe.

The backlog for work visas is growing longer, and foreign dance instructors are being subjected to additional scrutiny and asked to produce an endless list of documents. Studio owners who cannot find qualified candidates in the United States say the Trump administration is deliberately making the process difficult. According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the processing time for a work visa has grown by 46% since 2016. The current waiting time is almost 10 months.

Foreign dance instructors usually apply for O-1 visas, which allow individuals with extremely rare abilities or achievements to work in the United States for three years. Studios say that many of them complete their applications and submit supporting documents only to be denied after months of waiting. When asked about these problems, a representative from the Center for Immigration Studies had little sympathy for dance studio owners. He suggested they close their businesses if they cannot find qualified help. Experts say these frustrations are prompting many talented individuals who could contribute greatly to the American economy to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

Ensuring that visa applications are completed correctly and submitted promptly is especially important when applicants are subjected to more thorough screening. Attorneys with experience in this area could explain the requirements of the various employment-based visas available and help employers to navigate the sometimes challenging bureaucratic process. Attorneys may also file appeals on behalf of employers when work visas are denied.

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