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Successful P-1 Visa Case: Burma's Iron Cross Band tours the US

Law Offices of Yu & Associates

One summer evening in 2012, our law office staff headed to the University of Maryland to watch a performance by Iron Cross, a rock band from Myanmar. The band turned out be top-notch, as well as wildly popular with the audience; the auditorium was ablaze with energy from start to finish. Considering that the visas for the singers and musicians were obtained by our law office, we felt as excited as the rest of the audience, and the show also held great personal significance.

After that show, Iron Cross finished up a tour of the US. That they were able to do so was all thanks to their obtaining P-1 visas. P-1 is a visa category for athletes and artists, allowing them to temporarily work in the US, either by competing or performing. In particular, P-1 visas are given to internationally renowned athletes, athletic teams, or performance groups. The requirements for P-1 visas for athletes include having internationally recognized extraordinary achievements in a particular sport, which means being recognized in more than one country. The P-1 requirements for performance groups include being a world-renowned group, and having enjoyed this renown for several years. Therefore, as long as you are an internationally known athlete or performance group, you can qualify for a P-1 visa to come to the US for sports or performance activities.

For performance groups, for instance, international recognition can be demonstrated by showing that the group has received one or more major awards which are known at the international level. Having received or been nominated for a major international award just once is enough. If the group has not received this kind of one-time major award, then they will need to use the following to demonstrate the group's outstanding abilities and international recognition: headlining a well-known performance event; achieving international acclaim; significant commercial success in sales of recordings; recognition from government agencies, industry organizations and experts; commanding a significantly higher salary than other groups in the same area; etc.

When the management company that wanted to bring Iron Cross over to the US first approached our law firm to discuss the case, we were not familiar with this musical band. We had handled quite a few P-1 visa cases for Chinese performance groups, but were not sure about the level of recognition of this band from Myanmar. Through the materials provided by the management company and the firms own research, we found out that not only was this rock band considered the greatest in Myanmar, but was also famous throughout Southeast Asia and also in Japan, and had even performed in London several times as well as having visited the US many years ago. With a history of twenty years, this was a well-respected band. At that point we decided that we definitely had to bring every person in this band over to the US with P-1 visas, so that they could perform and enrich the cultural life of the DC area and the US.

In general, performance groups that want to obtain P-1 visas should meet the following requirements:

  • The group must have been in existence and performing regularly for at least one year;
  • At least 75% of the group's members must have been performing with the group for at least one year; and
  • The group must have earned international acclaim which has been sustained over a period of time.

As we were preparing Iron Cross's case, we realized that this band is indeed one of, if not the most popular band in Myanmar, having achieved quite a high level of recognition. The band has four singers, all of whom are quite famous. We were surprised to find that one of the singers is from Taiwan. After the visas were approved, he came from Taipei to join the band in the US. During the performance at UMD, he sang two well-known Chinese songs in Burmese. Although we couldn't understand the words, it was still a touching experience.

The band's case was quite strong, and getting approval from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should not have been an issue C but for that the management company that was organizing the shows was in a rather weak position, being a newly founded company and inexperienced in organizing concerts. We therefore set to work on the trouble spots, repeatedly getting in touch with the management company to dig out the information and documentation that we needed, until at last through hard work on both sides, all of the band members were approved for P-1 visas and received approval notices from USCIS. However, when the band went to the US consulate in Yangon to be interviewed and obtain their visas, they ran into a problem. Because one of the singers used a stage name, which was different from the name on his passport, during the application process, the band's materials were held at the consulate for investigation. No timeframe was given for completing the investigation, which made the management company extremely nervous, since all of the venues on this side were booked already. Our firm therefore did our best to resolve the situation, contacting the US consulate in Yangon every day to check on the situation and urge them to finish the investigation. At last the US consulate did give this singer a visa, allowing him and his bandmates to make their way to the US in time for their scheduled performances.

Later, during their performance at University of Maryland, we realized that this singer was the bands second male singer, and much beloved by the audience. We were therefore quite glad that through our unceasing diligence, we had been able to make sure that he got his visa and avoid disappointing all his fans. The band alternated between slow romantic songs and heavier, faster-paced ones, filling the hall with energy C on the balcony, a group of people got up and began to dance. The crowd cheered wildly at every high point of the performance, and our attorney also learned from the office assistant how to throw the metal horns, a universal gesture of appreciation for heavy music. To give you a sense of how wild it was, the Performing Arts Center had to call in security guards to stand in front of the stage and prevent the crowd from moving about too aggressively. Clearly, Iron Cross was extremely popular with their Burmese-American fanbase here. Who will we see next C perhaps a great rock band from China to follow in the footsteps of Hong Kongs Beyond and Myanmars Iron Cross?


The above is a general introduction to immigration policies, and should not be construed as individual legal advice. For specific legal questions, please contact the Law Offices of Yu & Associates. Attorney Xiaohui (Sharon) Yu is a graduate of New York University School of Law, one of the top five law schools in the US, and has practiced law at some of the top firms in the US, UK and China.

Tel: 301-838-8986, Fax: 202-595-1918; E-mail: syu@yulegal.com, Address: 110 N. Washington St., Suite 328E, Rockville, MD 20850. (All rights reserved.)

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