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US Visa for Artist and Entertainer: O1 Visa, P1 Visa, P3 Visa, B-1, and More...
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The United States has always been a top destination for artists and entertainers from around the world. From amateurs to professionals, to the world famous, they are all eager to show off their star skills to the most discerning of world-wide audiences- the Americans. Acting as ambassadors of their nations and representatives of their craft, foreign artists and entertainers coming to the US facilitate exchange of ideas and traditions, and in the process enrich both societies. The United States has always welcomed entertainers and artists from every genre. The American public and society, for its part, has always welcomed and appreciated talented performers from diverse cultures, showering them with accolades, recognition and rewards. And nothing signifies this better than the range of nonimmigrant US visa options that are available to foreign national artists and entertainers who want to temporarily come to the US to perform or exhibit their work in short-term or long-term projects.    

Each nonimmigrant US artist visa option and entertainer visa option has its own applicability, advantages and limitations. It is therefore important that artists and entertainers, as well as their employers and/or agents, understand and be clear about the various options they may have, and what purpose each classification has, so that any problems and issue that may arise with the immigration laws in the US can be avoided. For the benefit of artists and entertainers, as well as their employers and/or agents, we present a snapshot of the most frequently used US visas that would allow them to come to the US temporarily and perform or exhibit their work.

 

O1 Visa for Artists and Entertainers

Suitable for


Internationally renowned artists and entertainers, who possess extraordinary ability.

Advantages


  1. Admission for a period of up to 3 years initially.
  2. Supports dual intent.
  3. Spouse and children can qualify for O-3 dependent visa.

Limitations


  1. The qualification criteria set down is of a very high standard.
  2. Approval of nonimmigrant petition by USCIS is necessary.

The O1 nonimmigrant visa classification is generally available to those who possess extraordinary ability  in the arts, science, business, education, athletics, or those in the motion pictures or television industries who are who are coming to the United States to perform for a temporary period. For artists and some entertainers, extraordinary ability means a high level of achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above what is ordinarily encountered.  For those in the motion picture or television industry, the O1 visa is available to those who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement. To qualify for an USA O1 visa, the applicant must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim.

Only individual artists and entertainers qualify for the USA O-1 visa category, meaning that a group of entertainers or a band for example, will not qualify on a single application. However, individuals who will accompany an O-1 artist or entertainer to assist in a specific event or performance, and whose assistance is ‘essential’ to the completion of the artist’s or entertainer’s performance may seek an O-2 visa. The O-2 beneficiary must have critical skills and experience with the O1 artist or entertainer that cannot be readily performed by a US worker, and which are essential to the successful performance of the O1 artist or entertainer.

The evidentiary criteria set down for USA O-1 visa is a relatively high standard.  There are two separate standards for artists, and for those in the television and motion picture industry. 

To obtain a US O-1 visa classification, the US employer of the artist or the entertainer, a US agent, representing either the employer, the artist or both, or a person or entity authorized by the employer as its agent, must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) with the accompanying documents evidencing extraordinary ability in the field.

A written advisory opinion from a peer group or labor organization or a person designated by such a group with expertise in the artists or entertainer’s field of ability must accompany every O-1 petition.   If the O-1 petition is for an artist in the motion picture or television industry, then the consultation must come from the labor union and a management organization with expertise in the artist’s area of ability. 

Note:

  1. A consultation may be waived for an artist or entertainer if he or she seeks readmission to perform similar services within 2 years of the date of a previous consultation. Such artists and entertainers should submit a waiver request and a copy of the previous consultation with the petition. Also, if the artist or entertainer can demonstrate that an appropriate peer group does not exist, the decision will be based on the evidence of record.

Each O-1 petition must also include a copy of a contract between the employer or agent and the artist or a summary of the terms of an oral contract. Contracts with third-party clients may also be required in certain cases.  Some petitions will also require the submission of an itinerary with an explanation of the nature of the events or activities the artist or entertainer will be engaging in along with beginning and end dates for the events or activities. 

Once the visa petition is approved by the USCIS, individual artists and entertainers who are applying from outside the US must apply for the US O1 visa at an appropriate US embassy or consulate.

Admission and Dependents

On an US O-1 visa, the individual artist or entertainer may be admitted to the United States for a period of 3 years initially (the term will depend on the terms of the contract and/or itinerary).  Extensions of stay may also be granted for the time necessary to accomplish the initial event or activity in increments of up to 1 year. The Spouse and children under the age of 21 of the O-1 artist or entertainer, as well as any O-2 support personnel, may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa.  Dependents with O-3 visas may not work in the US but may engage in full or part time study.

To know more about the O-1 Visa, please click here.

 

P1 Visa for Artists and Entertainers of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Groups

Suitable for


Internationally recognized entertainment groups and its members

Advantages


  1. Admission for a period of up to 1 year initially.
  2. Qualification criteria not as high as O-1.
  3. Spouse and children can qualify for P-4 dependent visa.

Limitations


  1. Individual artists and entertainers cannot apply for a P-1 visa.
  2. Prior approval of petition by USCIS is necessary.

The P1 visa classification is available to artists and entertainers coming to the United States temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time. However, as opposed to the O-1 visa classification which is available to individual artists and entertainers, the US P1 visa classification is intended for those performing as part of a group.  Along with artists and entertainers, essential support personnel, who are an integral part of the performance of P1 artists or entertainers, and who perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a US worker are also eligible for P-1 classification. 

For the entertainment group and its members to qualify for the USA P-1 visa, at least 75 percent of the members of the group must have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year. Also, the entertainment group must be internationally recognized, meaning, it must have a high level of achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above what is ordinarily encountered. The reputation of the group, not the individual achievements of its members, must be internationally recognized.

Note:

  1. Circus performers and essential circus support personnel are exempt from the one year requirement and the internationally recognized requirement. They must, however, be coming to join a nationally recognized circus.
  2. In consideration of special circumstances, certain nationally known entertainment groups may have the internationally recognized requirement waived if they can establish that they have been recognized nationally as outstanding for a sustained amount of time.

To obtain a US P1 artist visa or P1 entertainer visa classification, the US employer of the entertainment group or its US agent must file a P1 petition with the USCIS, along with a consultation from an appropriate labor organization regarding the nature of the performance, or a statement proving that the group has been established and performing regularly for a period of at least one year. 

Note: If no appropriate labor organization exists, this requirement is excused.

The petition must also include a contract between the employer/agent and the entertainment group/individuals and an itinerary of the events. 

Once the visa petition is approved by the USCIS, members of the group may apply for the USA P1 visa at an appropriate US embassy or consulate.

Admission

On a P1 visa, the entertainment group may be admitted to the United States for the time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed 1 year, initially. Extension of stay may also be granted in increments of up to 1 year in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance. 

To know more about the P-1 Visa, please click here.

 

P2 Artist Visa and Entertainer Visa

Suitable for


Artists and Entertainers, coming individually or as part of a group, to perform under a reciprocal exchange program.

Advantages


  1. Admission for a period of up to 1 year initially.
  2. Qualification criteria not as high as O-1.
  3. Spouse and children can qualify for P-4 dependent visa.

Limitations


Limited to:
  1. artists and entertainers entering the US through a government recognized reciprocal exchange program, and
  2. Possessing skills comparable to those of the US artists and entertainers taking part in the program outside the United States.
  3. Prior approval of petition by USCIS is necessary.

The P-2 visa  classification is available to artists and entertainers, coming temporarily to the United States to perform, either individually or as part of a group under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country. Essential support personnel who are an integral part of the performance of a P-2 artist or entertainer, and who perform support services that cannot be readily performed by a US worker are also eligible for P-2 classification. 

In order to qualify for a P-2 US artist visa, the artist or entertainer must be entering the United States through a government recognized reciprocal exchange program. In addition, he or she must possess skills comparable to those of the US artists and entertainers taking part in the program outside the United States.

To obtain P-2 artist visa or P-2 entertainer visa classification, the sponsoring labor organization in the United States, or the US employer, must file a P-2 petition with the USCIS, along with a written consultation from an appropriate labor organization.  Evidence that the labor organization in the US was involved in negotiating, or has concurred with the reciprocal exchange of US and foreign artists and entertainers must be submitted.

Also, if the events or performances will take place in multiple areas, an itinerary, listing the dates and locations of the events, must be submitted.

Once the visa petition is approved by the USCIS, artists and entertainers may apply for the P-2 USA artists visa at an appropriate US embassy or consulate.

Admission

On a P2 visa, artists and entertainers may be admitted to the United States for the time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed 1 year, initially. Extension of stay may also be granted in increments of up to 1 year in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance. 

To know more about the US P-2 Visa, please click here.

 

P3 Visa for Artists and Entertainers performing under a Culturally Unique Program

Suitable for


Artists and Entertainers, coming individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique.

Advantages


  1. Admission for a period of up to 1 year initially.
  2. Qualification criteria not as high as O-1.
  3. Spouse and children can qualify for P-4 dependent visa.

Limitations


Limited to:
  1. artists and entertainers coming to the US for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation, and
  2. Coming to participate in a cultural event or events, which will further the understanding or development of his or her art form.
  3. Prior approval of petition by USCIS is necessary.

The P-3 visa classification is available to artists and entertainers, coming temporarily to the United States to perform, teach or coach, either individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique. Essential support personnel who are an integral part of the performance of a P-3 artist or entertainer and who perform support services that cannot be readily performed by a US worker are also eligible for P-3 classification. 

To qualify for a US P3 visa, the artist or entertainer must be coming to the United States for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. In addition, he or she must be coming to the United States to participate in a cultural event or events, which will further the understanding or development of his or her art form.

To obtain a P3 visa classification, the US employer or the sponsoring organization must file a P-3 petition with the USCIS, along with a written consultation from an appropriate labor organization, and either, affidavits, testimonials or letters from recognized experts attesting to the authenticity of the individual’s or group's skills in performing, presenting, coaching or teaching the unique and traditional art forms; or documentation that establishes that the individual’s or group’s performance is culturally unique, as evidenced by reviews in newspapers, journals or other published materials. Also, if the events or performances will take place in multiple areas, an itinerary, listing the dates and locations of the events, must be submitted.

Once the visa petition is approved by the USCIS, artists and entertainers may apply for the P-3 visa at an appropriate US embassy or consulate.

Admission

On a P-3 visa, artists and entertainers may be admitted to the United States for the time needed to complete the event, activity or performance, not to exceed 1 year, initially. Extension of stay may also be granted in increments of up to 1 year in order to continue or complete the event, activity or performance.

To know more about the P-3 Visa, please click here.

 

P-4 Visa for Dependents of P-1, P-2, P-3 Visa Holders

The Spouse and children under the age of 21 of P-1, P-2 and P-3  visa holders may be eligible to apply for a P-4 nonimmigrant visa.  Dependents with P-4 visas may not work in the US but may engage in full or part time study.

To know more about the P-4 Visa, please click here.

 

B1 Visa for Artists and Entertainers

Suitable for


Professional artists and entertainers coming to participate in certain cultural programs and competitions, in limited circumstances.

Advantages


Prior approval of petition by USCIS is not needed.

Limitations


  1. Available to artists and entertainers in limited circumstances.
  2. Cannot receive any salary from a US source for activities in the US.
  3. No dependent visa for spouse and children.

In certain limited situations, the B1 Business Visitor visa may serve as an appropriate US visa for artists and entertainers to come to the US temporarily.  An advantage of the B-1 visa is that unlike the O and P visas, no prior approval of a petition from USCIS is required for seeking a visa, which means lesser processing time and costs for the applicants. This also means there need not be a US employer or agent.  The B-1 visa is generally not appropriate for professional artists and entertainers who seek to enter the US to temporarily perform services except in a limited and narrow range of circumstances. These include:

  1. Where a professional entertainer is coming to the US to participate only in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country, and he or she will be performing before a nonpaying audience, and all of his or her expenses will be paid by his or her government.

  2. Where a professional entertainer is coming to the US to participate in a competition for which there is no remuneration other than a prize (monetary or otherwise) and expenses.

  3. Where a musician is coming to the US in order to utilize recording facilities for recording purposes only, and the recording will be distributed and sold only outside the United States, and no public performances will be given.

  4. Where an artist is coming to the United States to paint, sculpt, etc., and who is not under contract with a US employer, and who does not intend to regularly sell such art-work in the United States.

Note: As a general rule, artists and entertainers on a B-1 visa may not receive a salary from a US source for his or her activities in the United States.  A US source, however, may provide him or her with an expense allowance or reimbursement for expenses incidental to the temporary stay, which may not exceed the actual reasonable expenses he or she will incur in traveling to and from the event, together with living expenses he or she reasonably can be expected to incur.

Admission and Dependents

On a B-1 visa, artists and entertainers can be admitted for the period of not more than one year. Extensions of stay may be granted in increments of not more than six months each. However, as a practical matter, B-1 artists and entertainers may be admitted only for the period necessary for them to perform in the US. Also, unlike the O and P visas, the spouse and children of B-1 artists and entertainers are not eligible to seek any “dependent” visa. Instead, they would have to individually qualify for a B-2 visitor visa.

To know more about the B-1 visa, please click here.

 

B2 Tourist Visa and Visa Waiver Program(VWP) for Amateur Artists and Entertainers

Amateur artists and entertainers, or group of amateurs, who will not be paid for performances and will perform in a social and/or charitable context or as a competitor in a talent show or contest, may be eligible to seek a B-2 visa, even if the incidental expenses associated with the visit are reimbursed. A B-2 Tourist visa, like the B-1 Business visa, is a visitor visa and does not require prior approval of a petition by USCIS before filing the visa application. 

Note :

  1. An amateur is someone who normally performs without remuneration (other than an allotment for expenses). 
  2. A performer who is normally compensated for performing cannot qualify for a B-2 visa even if the performer does not make a living at performing, or agrees to perform in the United States without compensation. 

Amateur artists and entertainers, or group of amateurs, as above, who are nationals of Visa Waiver Countries, may also be eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for the above purposes, if they are otherwise eligible.

Dependents

The spouse and children under 21 of amateur artists and entertainers on a B-2 visa are not eligible to seek any “dependent” visa. Instead, they would have to individually qualify for a B-2 visitor visa.

Conclusion

As we’ve shown here, artists and entertainers who want to come to the US to perform or exhibit their talents in the US have a range of US visa options to choose from. The key is to choose the best option that matches the artists or entertainers talents and purpose of the trip.  Thus, while the O1 visa would allow an artist or entertainer admission into the US for a period of up to 3 years initially, the eligibility criteria prescribed for the O-1 is a very high standard, beyond the reach of many amateur or young artists and entertainers. The eligibility criteria for P-visas, on the other hand, is not set as high as the O-1 visa, but the P1 visa is not available to individual artists and entertainers while the P2 visa is limited to only those artists, entertainers and groups performing under a reciprocal exchange program. The P3 visa is limited to artists and entertainers performing under a culturally unique program, like Irish dance, or Sufi musical performance, etc. While the B1 visa does not require a prior approval of petition by the USCIS, its applicability is limited to certain select situations, and is not suitable for the vast majority of professional artists and entertainers.

This article is only intended to provide an introduction to the various US visa options that may be available to artists and entertainers desirous of coming temporarily to the US, but it is not fully exhaustive. It is essential that before taking any concrete steps, artists and entertainers, as well as their employers and/or agents, understand and  be clear about the various options, and decide on which one is most suitable for them and their particular situation. It is therefore suggested that they talk to an experienced immigration attorney and plan a clear immigration strategy, to avoid any immigration related issues or problems at a later date.

VisaPro’s experienced immigration attorneys can help you evaluate your visa options and identify the most suitable visa option in your situation, and assist you in filing. In case you are deliberating about filing for a suitable US artist visa or entertainer visa, contact VisaPro.


The above article is brought to you by VisaPro. VisaPro’s US Immigration Lawyer Services include O1 Visa, P1 Visa, P3 Visa, B1 Visa, and over 100 other Immigration Services.

The information in this article is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions specific to your case, we suggest that you consult with the experienced immigration attorneys http://consultattorney.visapro.com. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.

Visit VisaPro regularly for updates and the latest immigration news at: http://www.visapro.com/Immigration-News/Index.asp

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