Approval from USCIS encouraging
We recently received an approval notice from USCIS for our application for pre-approval for P-3 visas for Sorie Kondi and his two bandmates. Although the timing of the approval shows that the processing times on USCIS.gov have no bearing to reality, the fact that the petition was approved without a request for additional information was somewhat encouraging.
A phone call to USCIS revealed the following: USCIS doesn't consider it to be an error or fault on their part that it took so long to process the application that we had to cancel the tour for March/April. The dates of the pre-approval cannot be changed. We have to start over, and submit a new petition, with complete documentation, and pay the $325 fee again.
We can only hope that if we apply soon, that we will have enough time to have the visas in time for an October tour, and that the 2nd application will be approved just like the 1st one was. The only difference will be that SXSW won't be on our itinerary, so we won't include a support letter from the festival.
Once we receive pre-approval for a 2nd time, each band member still must apply and interview in person at the US embassy in Freetown, separately, each pay a $140 machine-readable visa fee, and can be approved or denied for visas separately. So we still have several hurdles to jump. However, from our research, there is no legal reason for the consul to deny anyone in the group visas. But in actual fact, the granting of visas is at their personal discretion.
The benefit of postponing the tour is that we may have the opportunity to add more dates to the tour, and that we have several more months to fundraise to ensure all 3 band members can buy plane tickets.
Thanks for your unwavering support. We will keep you posted on any developments.
The Sorie Kondi team