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Meet Cha See of See Lighting Foundation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cha See.

Cha, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Confronted with the lack of resources for low-income immigrant theater artists, this fundraiser was started to give immediate relief to those in need.

We are a group of scenic, costume, lighting, sound, projection designers, stage managers, dramaturges, prop artisans, technical directors, directors, actors for theater.

Most of us work under an O-1B artist visa or are in the midst of their OPT which allows us to work legally in the US. Unfortunately, applying for unemployment benefits poses risks for us.

On top of that, O visa holders are issued their visas to allow them to do specific work. Meaning, we cannot legally seek work outside of the field (theater, design, lighting, etc.) we have obtained our visa for. Most of our theatrical performances this year have been postponed or simply canceled with no concrete schedule of when theaters will reopen.

With the incredible support of our dear theater community, friends and loved ones, our initial GoFundMe campaign has been a huge success. We have been able to distribute $500 funds to over 50 immigrant theater artists. Visit our Playbill feature. Our new Playbill feature (update 7/1/2020)

But with no plan for theaters to reopen, we are still in dire need of financial support.

Please consider a monthly donation to the See Lighting Foundation. Your contribution will directly fund one of our 60 artists. You can visit their work on our The Artists page at seelightingfoundation.com.

Our goal is to give $500 grants to all of our 60 artists on a monthly basis for the next six months.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This is a catch 22 situation. “O visa holders are issued their visas to allow them to do specific work in the U.S. If you fail to do that work, the government generally sees it as a violation of your visa, called a “failure to maintain status.” If you fail to maintain your status, this could remain on your record forever and could make it difficult to get visas, green cards, and ESTA. The problem with seeking unemployment is that you are telling the government that you are not working, which strongly suggests that you are “failing to maintain your status.”
(https://www.covey.law/unemployment-benefits-for-p-and-o-visas-holders/)

The USCIS takes around 3 to 6 months to process the visa. It is getting longer each year since the Trump administration. Most of us at the See Lighting Foundation apply for our O1 visa during our OPT. Unfortunately, if we do not receive our petition approval before our OPT time is up, we enter a limbo, where we are not allowed to work legally or re-enter the US if we choose to wait it out in our home country. However, we do have the option to go for premium processing where your application. (Form I-129) will be reviewed within 15 days. This does NOT guarantee approval. The premium processing costs $1,440. The Trump administration raised it from $1,225. The standard processing fee is $460.

In most cases, we are forced to opt for the premium processing because truth be told, who can afford to not work for 3-6 months, especially in a field where physical presence is crucial. In addition to the processing fee, you are also required to file a Form DS-160 which will cost you $190 and another $200 to the IASTE labor union basically vouching for us and signing a letter of approval. Add to this an additional immigration lawyer fee which will be charged by your lawyer to prepare and file your application. This fee will vary from lawyer to lawyer depending on their practice, skill, and experience. The price ranges from 3K-8K.

Please tell us about See Lighting Foundation.
I am proud because we are grassroots and accessible. No hoops and long stressful applications.

32,000 GO FUND ME as of May thru June
43,000 WEBSITE as of June thru July
30,000 BROADWAY CARES as of August
THIS MEANS
72 ARTISTS HAVE BEEN HELPED
JUNE, JULY AND AUGUST WERE COVERED
63 ARTISTS ARE PART OF THE MONTHLY DONATION
NOW WE ARE RAISING FUNDS FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER!!

We need your help for September. We are behind and there’s still more artists who need help.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My Co-founders Kimie Nishikawa and Rodrigo Muñoz. My partner Sarah Boatright and dog Duncan for keeping me strong and sane.

Contact Info:

  • Website: seelightingfoundation.com
  • Email: seelightingfoundation@gmail.com
  • Instagram: seelightingfoundation
  • Facebook: seelightingfoundation
  • Twitter: seelightingfoundation

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