If you work in the entertainment business, take note of the following HIFA visa pilot program in Hawaii. There are stringent requirement rules, but if those requirements are met, participants will be able to be admitted to the U.S. on ESTA (Electronic System from Travel Authorization) instead of by filing an O petition. The application process for obtaining an O visa can be quite rigorous. (Click here for more details.) ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. With ESTA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP officers) make the final decision regarding admissibility when the traveler arrives.
Another key player in the aforementioned visa pilot program: the Hawaii International Film Association (HIFA), which is a non-profit organization that specializes in the overseas production business. HIFA negotiates with the government, labor unions, private businesses, and works with CBP prior to any filming taking place in Hawaii.
According to the HIFA website, here are the requirements you need to meet in order to take advantage of the visa pilot program in Hawaii:
- The visitor must be from a country under the current Visa Waiver Program, which include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom;
- Port of entries are limited to Honolulu and Kona International Airports;
- All contents of the filming must be released outside of the United States;
- All filming is limited within the state of Hawaii;
- All crew members are to be paid in their country of origin; and
- The production in Hawaii will need to hire a minimum of one HIFA coordinator and one IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) or IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) Union member during the duration of the shoot. Rates will vary with the position and union. The HIFA coordinator will be able to provide complete details.
Those who do not satisfy all of the above-listed conditions need to contact an immigration attorney prior to any filming in the state of Hawaii. Berardi Immigration Law would be happy to assist you – contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys today!