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Johnny and Sammy Butten Get a Second Chance for Permanent Residence

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Johnny ButtenIn March of this year, award winning bluegrass banjoist Johnny Butten was informed that the United States wasn't going to renew his visa and that he would be forced to return to England. Many wrote letter in support of Johnny and his family to remain in America. He had an endorsement with Recording King, had built up a new band Telegraph Road and was active on the bluegrass circuit. That all came to an immediate halt. Today, there is good news. Johnny, Sammy and the family will get a new visa and can begin the permanent resident process again.

The denial on the original renewal was filled with errors from USCIS. In the denial of their visa, USCIS incorrectly stated that Johnny was "a researcher in the field of aerospace science." This obviously wasn't the correct application as Johnny was here due to his abilities on the banjo - the musical arts and had nothing to do with aerospace.

Many in bluegrass came to the rescue but, USCIS didn't feel bluegrass was a relevant art. They apparently no longer recognized the Guinness World Records as an award. They wanted International awards like the Nobel Peace Prize Major publications such as Bluegrass Unlimited weren't major enough for USCIS.

In the denial, they wrote "Major international awards such as the Nobel Prize, a Grammy or and Oscar are reported all over the world in major media including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of India and other world renowned publications." Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Music Profiles and other genre specific publications didn't qualify.

The emotional stress was awesome. Short time-line and a broken process just before the festival season was to unwrap.

About a month ago, Johnny announced that he was going to make his festival commitments. He had acquired a new immigration lawyer and started the process to contest the decision. It worked. In an email sent to the Buttens July 20th, they were informed of the decision on their petition. It was approved. Now, everybody can breathe a bit easier. Promoters who booked their performances, their not having to relocate on short notice, and other heavy concerns were dissolved. They can get back on with their lives.

In June, Johnny signed up for a second term endorsee for Recording King banjos -- this time for a 3 year contract. Johnny will be working on some new albums and recording projects, will be finalizing a banjo "Jam" book with CD and in September, he and Telegraph Road will his the UK for a 2-week tour before returning to play at Hostfest for 4 days.

2011 came in with the lion and should go out with the lamb. We always like a good ending to the story.

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