Title 22—Foreign Relations and Intercourse
§ 2459. Immunity from seizure under judicial process of cultural objects imported for temporary exhibition or display (as amended by Section 1216(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, Public Law 116-283 (“FY 2021 NDAA”))
(a) Agreements; Presidential determination; publication in Federal Register
Whenever any work of art or other object of cultural significance is imported into the United States from any foreign country, pursuant to an agreement entered into between the foreign owner or custodian thereof and the United States or one or more cultural, educational, or religious institutions with the capacity to appropriately curate such object within the United States providing for temporary storage, conservation, scientific research, exhibition, or display within the United States at any cultural exhibition, assembly, activity, or festival administered, operated, or sponsored, without profit, by any such cultural, educational, or religious institution with the capacity to appropriately curate such object, no court of the United States, any State, the District of Columbia, or any territory or possession of the United States may issue or enforce any judicial process, or enter any judgment, decree, or order, for the purpose or having the effect of depriving such institution, or any carrier engaged in transporting such work or object within the United States, of custody or control of such object if before the importation of such object the President or his designee has determined that such object is of cultural significance and that temporary storage, conservation, scientific research, exhibition, or display within the United States is in the national interest, and a notice to that effect has been published in the Federal Register.
(b) Intervention of United States attorney in pending judicial proceedings
If in any judicial proceeding in any such court any such process, judgment, decree, or order is sought, issued, or entered, the United States attorney for the judicial district within which such proceeding is pending shall be entitled as of right to intervene as a party to that proceeding, and upon request made by either the institution adversely affected, or upon direction by the Attorney General if the United States is adversely affected, shall apply to such court for the denial, quashing, or vacating thereof.
(c) Enforcement of agreements and obligations of carriers under transportation contracts
Nothing contained in this section shall preclude (1) any judicial action for or in aid of the enforcement of the terms of any such agreement or the enforcement of the obligation of any carrier under any contract for the transportation of any such object of cultural significance; or (2) the institution or prosecution by or on behalf of any such institution or the United States of any action for or in aid of the fulfillment of any obligation assumed by such institution or the United States pursuant to any such agreement.
(d) For purposes of this section, the terms ‘imported’ and ‘importation’ include a transfer from a mission of a foreign country located within the United States to a cultural, educational, or religious institution located within the United States.
Please also note that Section 1216(b) of the FY 2021 NDAA provided additional language regarding how the above should be applied to certain objects that are imported from Afghanistan:
FY 2021 NDAA Section 1216(b)
(1) IN GENERAL.—A work of art or other object of cultural significance that is imported into the United States for temporary storage, conservation, scientific research, exhibition, or display shall be deemed to be immune from seizure under such Act of October 19, 1965 (22 U.S.C. 2459) (as amended by subsection (a)), and the provisions of such Act shall apply in the same manner and to the same extent to such work or object, if—
(A) the work or object is exported from Afghanistan with an export permit or license duly issued by the Government of Afghanistan; and
(B)(i) an agreement is entered into between the Government of Afghanistan and the cultural, educational, or religious institution with the capacity to appropriately curate such object within the United States that specifies the conditions for such material to be returned to Afghanistan; or
(ii) the work or object is transferred to a cultural, educational, or religious institution with the capacity to appropriately curate such object in the United States in accordance with an agreement described in clause (i) that also includes an authorization to transfer such work or object to other such institutions in the United States.