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When is a Grammy Not a Grammy? Ask USCIS!

March 16, 2021 (2 min read)

Joe Adams, Mar. 15, 2021

"British music producer Austen Jux-Chandler had been living and working in Los Angeles for several years on a temporary working visa called an “O-1.” Austen has worked with Ed Sheeran, Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga, Paul Weller, A$AP Rocky, Plan B, John Legend, and The Weeknd. In 2016 Austen won the “Album of the Year” Grammy Award for producing Adele’s “25.” ... As the pandemic hit in 2020 Austen kept busy — and he is in very high demand. Something struck him and he decided he wanted to make the transition from his O-1 visa, which has a fixed end date, into a green card, which is permanent. ... The simplest way to show extraordinary ability in the arts is through “evidence of a one-time achievement, that is, a major, internationally recognized award” such as Nobel Prize, Oscar, or Grammy. Receipt of an award like this means the green card should be granted per se and no further analysis or evidence is required. ... USCIS denied the case on February 19, 2021. ... USCIS stated: The record shows that you were one of the mixer/engineers for Adele’s Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammy Awards for which you received a Grammy statuette. This, however, is not a Grammy Award, but recognition that you and your group worked on an album that garnered a Grammy Award Album of the Year. Accordingly, your statuette does not qualify as a one-time achievement that is a major, internationally recognized award. ... We filed our lawsuit naming the USCIS Director, the Homeland Security Secretary, the Attorney General, and of course the Nebraska Service Center Director, on February 25, 2021. ... On March 9, 2021 USCIS emailed me their standard “approval” email — just 7 full working days since we filed [the lawsuit.] Case approved. No fanfare. A few hours later an assistant U.S. attorney sent Brian and me an anodyne email to let us know she’d been assigned the case, that the green card had been approved, and to please dismiss the lawsuit. The bad decision wouldn’t be defended; we won. ... I am not the first immigration lawyer who notes that with Trump the chaos wasn’t a bug — it was a feature. I am happy for the outcome in Austen’s case. But Austen has resources, lawyers, and speaks English as his primary language. I worry about the unknown rules, chaotic implementation, and defiant USCIS officers still impacting unknown people who would have been able to avail themselves of U.S. immigration laws but for errors of the kind Austen faced, confronted, and ultimately prevailed against."

Joe Adams is an immigration lawyer focused on arts, entertainment, sports, and entrepreneurs. Twitter: @jaesqlaw