AAO on Culturally Unique Standard for P-3 Petitions

The United States provides many performance and teaching opportunities for musicians and other entertainers. The P-3 category is appropriate for artists and entertainers seeking to enter the U.S. for purposes related to culturally unique performances or presentations. The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) recently handed down a critical interpretation of the term culturally unique in a case entitled Matter of Skirball Cultural Center. Although the Murthy Law Firm did not provide any representation in this case, it is presented here for our readers because it is helpful for artists and entertainers from different cultures to determine whether they may qualify under this precedent (binding) decision. As a precedent decision, the AAO’s interpretation of what is culturally unique is binding on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Background: Culturally Unique Requirement

The P-3 visa is available for artists or entertainers, whether individuals or groups, coming to the United States to perform, teach, or coach in a program that is considered culturally unique. The regulations further define this category to include unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performances or presentations. As explained below, the argument in the Matter of Skirball Cultural Center centered on whether a form of music, which was the blend of several cultures, could qualify as culturally unique.

Blending of Cultures Creates New, Unique Culture

The USCIS initially denied a P-3 petition because the musical group being sponsored intended to perform music that was “klezmer (Jewish music of Eastern Europe) with Latin and South American influences.” The seven sponsored musicians were Jewish musicians from Argentina. Their musical influences came from their Jewish and Eastern European cultural heritage, as well as from their home in Argentina. The P visa petitioner provided the USCIS with evidence to show that this musical group was culturally unique. However, the USCIS denied the petition, reasoning that the type of music performed by the group was a mixture of different musical traditions, from different parts of the world – Eastern Europe and Latin and South America. The music, therefore, did not qualify as culturally unique, because this style was not specific to one place or one culture.

The AAO disagreed with the position of the USCIS, and concluded that a mixture of different traditions, practices or styles could be combined to create something new. The law also allows for this new style to be something that is culturally unique to a “group of persons.” The AAO explains that, in this case, the group of persons is South Americans born to Eastern European immigrants with a distinct Jewish Argentine culture and identity.

Immigration Pattern Reflected in Decision

While this case is limited to the P-3 category, it speaks to us of the greater impact immigration patterns have upon culture. Immigrants bring parts of their unique cultural influences with them to their adopted countries, and the culture of their new homes is incorporated into their lives. This blend of multiple, often very distinct cultures can create a new, identifiable culture. This is evident in art, in food, and in identifiable forms of music.


Helpful to others seeking the P-3 category, this case interprets the concept of culturally unique more expansively, beyond purely traditional artistic forms from a particular country, region, or culture. Given the burgeoning levels of global migration through the decades, it is likely that the decision in this case will be applicable to other artists and performers who present unique and identifiable blends of cultures in their work. We at the Murthy Law Firm have represented many artists and entertainers, including those whose artistry is culturally unique like classical musicians, dancers, and artists. We are available to guide and assist those who believe they may qualify in the P-3 category as culturally unique artists and entertainers.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.