The Administrative Appeals Unit (AAO) recently issued an important decision affecting P-3 petitions for artists who perform “culturally unique” music and art. Matter of Skirball Cultural Center, 25I&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 – better described as “South American klezmer.” The California Service Center (CSC) denied the P-3 petition on the ground the music could not be culturally unique if based on a hybrid of artistic styles from more than one culture or region. In this case, Argentine musicians performing klezmer music did not fit the CSC bill.
The AAO viewed it differently, though. It 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; it can include a “hybrid or fusion” art form from more than one culture or region. The AAO noted 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 phrase “group of persons,” the AAO went on to explain, allows for flexibility that could include unique artistic expression that crosses regional, ethnic, or other boundaries. In Skirball, the identifiable group was a Jewish community whose presence in Argentina was “distinct.” Therefore, the “culturally unique” standard was met even though the art form was a hybrid of Jewish folk music and Latin music.
This decision opens the door to more P-3 petitions. Artist performing music, dance, or other art forms that involve a blending of cultures might now be eligible for P-3. While there are certainly limitations to the blending of cultures and eligibility for P-3, our law firm is ready to evaluate whether the art form will fall within the Skirball definition of culturally unique.