Hi, I’m Erin McMillen and have some thoughts about bringing foreign artists in to the United States.
I believe in protecting my foreign artist instructors and, by doing so, the students that sign up for classes with them as well as my business. We have class policies for participants. We also have them for our instructors.
It is illegal for a foreign person to work in the US without the proper work permits/visas. (All United States employers* are required to confirm that employees are legally able to work in the US. If an individual is not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States they will need a permit to work, officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to prove eligibility to work in the US. It is the responsibility of both parties, employer and employee/worker to show and require proof of legal employment status.)
For a foreign glass artist to accept payment of any kind- monetary, lodging, food, supplies etc., they require an O-1 visa. There is no other way to legally bring a foreign artist to teach in the United States.
I believe in following the law, abiding by the rules and providing the security of proper documentation, both for my instructors and their potential students who will sign up for their classes. I was raised to be a law-abiding citizen, to follow the rules of the society I live in, and to be a contributing, productive member of society. I also feel a responsibility to protect the people that work for me, no matter the capacity. The way you protect your foreign artists is by getting them the proper documentation to be teaching in the United States. Without this documentation, they risk being caught at the border, blacklisted and returned to their country of origin- a terrifying experience. Imagine this happening as they are on their way to a full class of students eagerly anticipating class the next day!
Yes, the work that goes into getting an O-1 visa is a lot, but not overwhelming. The cost of using an attorney is high, but not so much that you can’t recover the fees over the duration of the three-year visa from the classes that you offer with that instructor. It is feasible. I know. I have done it twice and am willing to do it again. As far as I know, The Melting Point is the only studio in the United States that acquires that proper documentation for their visiting foreign artists. Deplorable. This process should be the norm, not the exception. All studios should protect their foreign artists. It is the right thing to do.
Many studios take the risk of being caught and just ask artists to lie at the border and pay them under the table. That is their risk and their karma to create.
I believe it is ethically and morally wrong to ask a foreign teacher to lie at customs, to say they are on vacation, to come to a studio and teach a class where the studio makes money. That tells me priorities are out of alignment- that money and greed have risen above doing what is right and good. I also don’t wish to work with artists who are known to lie at the border to come and teach- that too tells me that their priorities do not align with The Melting Point. I want to surround myself and my employees with honest, good people whose priorities are in line with ours.
*Employer is defined by US Citizenship and Immigration services as: a person or entity, including an agent or anyone acting directly or indirectly in the person or entity’s interest, who engages the services or labor of a person for wages or other remuneration to perform work in the U.S. The term employer includes agricultural recruiters and/or referrers for a fee. In the case of an independent contractor or contract labor or services, the term employer means the independent contractor or contractor and not the person or entity using the contract labor.