Skip to Content

What Does Culturally Unique Mean? An Overview of the P-3 Visa

Culture is defined as the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group. This broad definition carries over into the P-3 visa process. The P-3 nonimmigrant visa allows foreign artists and entertainers to enter to United States in order to perform or assist in the performance of culturally unique events. These events should further the understanding or development of the art form being expressed. However, it can be difficult to adequately define what culturally unique means in the adjudication of P-3 petitions. This article intends to shed light on the finer points of who qualifies for a P-3 visa and, more specifically, what makes a performance culturally unique.

Generally, a P-3 visa is reserved for an individual or group venturing to the U.S. temporarily to perform, teach or coach as an artist or entertainer under a program that is culturally unique. The visa recipient or recipients should be entering the United States for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. Additionally, the individual or group should be coming to participate in a cultural even or events which further the understanding or development of their art form. This performance or series of performances may be for financial compensation but are not required to be.

There are two important hurdles to clear when seeking a positive adjudication of a P-3 visa petition. The first is demonstrating that the performance is culturally unique.  Regulation defines culturally unique to mean a style of artistic expression, methodology, or medium which is unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons. This definition, while fairly broad, does little to clarify how one would differentiate a performance which is culturally unique as opposed to one which is not. For example, would a prominent Indian director coming to the U.S. to direct a play qualify? The short answer, as it often is when discussing issues of American immigration, is it depends.

In order to satisfy the culturally unique criteria for a P-3 nonimmigrant visa, the aforementioned director would need to be directing a play that was identifiably specific to a particular group of people. For example, the play itself could be one of historical significance to a specific region of India. Another example could be if the play was of significant importance to followers of Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, etc. However, artistic expressions that fuse together more than one culture or region can also qualify.

The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) has issued a binding decision under Matter of Skirball Cultural Center, 25 I&N Dec. 799 (AAO 2012), which clarifies that artistic traditions of one country or ethnicity influenced by artistic traditions of another culture can still qualify as culturally unique. An example of this would be a musician trained in Indian classical music incorporating Western jazz influences. Thus, establishing that a performance or series of performance is culturally unique is not so narrowly tailored as to disallow acts that would qualify as hybrids of two or more cultures.

While establishing the potential P-3 visa recipient’s performance cultural uniqueness is paramount, it is not the only barrier. One must still prove the event or events at issues will further the understanding or development of their art form. Doing so will likely require your legal representation drafting documentation attesting to the importance of the upcoming event to a particular community. Additionally, one could attempt to argue the large scale nature of the performance or performances will expose new people to the performer’s unique culture. While the prosing of the immigration attorney will benefit the Petitioner, these statements will have to be backed up by evidence such as flyers of the event or events and documentation of agreements with the venues where the performances will be held.

In addition to a description of the event, a successful P-3 petition requires the following evidence: an itinerary if there is going to be more than one performance, letters from recognized experts attesting the authenticity of the beneficiary’s skill in teaching, performing, coaching, or presenting the unique and traditional art form and the expert’s credentials, or alternatively, documentation that the beneficiary’s performance is culturally unique through reviews in journals, newspapers, and other publications, and the previously mentioned documentation that all planned performances will be culturally unique.

Upon approval, a P-3 visa should be approved for the duration of time needed to complete the event, but will not exceed one year. Extensions of stay may be granted. The current filing fee for a P-3 application is $460, and premium processing is available at the time of this writing. For more information on the filing process of a P3 nonimmigrant visa, as well as dependent P-4 visas, please contact one of Reddy Neumann Brown’s qualified business immigration attorneys.


By Justin Rivera       


Justin is an associate attorney at Reddy and Neumann.  He practices immigration law with an emphasis on non-immigrant visas.