As manager of a renowned Australian boy band, Shaun was surprised when the U.S. organizers arranging for their performances in the U.S. sought many details and documents from him regarding the band for the purpose of applying for a visa to allow them to go and perform in the U.S. With the band’s recent album remaining at No. 1 place in the British Charts for about 7 weeks, and with many of their songs regularly featuring on Billboard charts, Shaun was not sure why extensive documentation was sought from the band. He learned that the organizers were applying for a P-1B visa for the group and so set out to find out as much as he could about the P-1B visa.
So, what is a P-1B visa? What are the P-1 visa requirements? How does a group or band apply for a P-1B visa?
The P-1 classification can be divided into two categories—P-1A or P-1B:
- The P-1A category applies to internationally recognized athletes coming to the U.S. temporarily (individually or as a team) to perform at a specific athletic competition, at an internationally recognized level of performance;
- The P-1B category applies to foreign nationals coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.
An important feature of the P-1B visa classification is that individual entertainers not performing as part of a group are not eligible for the P-1B classification. This is unlike internationally recognized athletes who are eligible to seek a P-1A visa either individually or as a team. Only entertainers and individuals who perform with, or are an integral and essential part of the performance of an internationally recognized entertainment group and who have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group and provide functions integral to the performance of the group are eligible to seek a P1B visa as members of an internationally recognized entertainment group. Furthermore, Essential Support Personnel who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 entertainer(s) and who perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker, are also eligible for P1 visa classification.
We present in this article, for the benefit of our readers, members of internationally recognized entertainment groups who would like to come to the U.S. temporarily to perform in the U.S., and U.S. employers who would like to bring some internationally recognized entertainment groups to perform in the U.S., an introduction to the P-1B visa for Entertainment Groups, and an overview of the P-1B visa requirements for Entertainment Groups, the P-1B visa process, along with a few important features of the P-1B visa for Entertainment Groups and their support personnel.
The P-1B Visa Requirements for Entertainment Groups
The key P-1B visa requirements that internationally recognized entertainment groups and its members must generally satisfy while seeking the P-1 classification are:
- The entertainment group must be internationally recognized. It must have a high level of achievement in a field as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition that is substantially above what is ordinarily encountered. Such achievement must be renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country;
Note 1: For the P-1B visa classification, it is the reputation of the group that is essential, not the achievements of its individual members.
Note 2: Under, and in consideration of special circumstances, the international recognition requirement mentioned above maybe waived in the case of an entertainment group which has been recognized nationally as being outstanding in its discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.
- The entertainment group must be coming to perform services which require an internationally recognized entertainment group;
- The entertainment group must have been established for a minimum of 1 year, and 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;
Note 1: The one year group membership requirement and the international recognition requirement are not applicable to alien circus personnel who perform as part of, or who constitute an integral and essential part of the performance of a circus or circus group, if he or she is coming to join a circus that has been recognized nationally as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time.
Note 2: The one year relationship requirement may also be waived for a foreign national who, because of illness or unanticipated and exigent circumstances, replaces an essential member of a P-1 entertainment group or an alien who augments the group by performing a critical role.
- The foreign national members of the entertainment group have a residence in a foreign country which he or she has no intention of abandoning.
The P-1 Visa Process for Entertainment Groups
To begin the P-1 visa process for entertainment groups, the U.S. Sponsoring entity that intends to bring the entertainment group and its members into the U.S. must first submit Form I-129, Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker to USCIS. The I-129 petition must include the names of the beneficiaries, and may not be filed more than one year before the actual need for the entertainment group’s services in the U.S.
Note 1: A P-1 petition can only be filed by a U.S. employer, a U.S. sponsoring organization, a U.S. agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent.
Note 2: Essential support personnel cannot be included on the P-1 petition filed for principal entertainers and members of an entertainment group. A separate petition needs to be filed for such qualified essential support personnel seeking a P-1 Essential Support Personnel visa classification.
A petition for P1B visa classification for members of an internationally recognized entertainment group, submitted to the USCIS as above, must be accompanied by the following evidence, among others:
- Evidence that the group has been established and performing regularly for a period of at least 1 year;
- A statement from the petitioner listing each member of the group and the exact dates for which each member has been employed on a regular basis by the group;
- Copies of written contracts between the petitioner and the foreign national artist or entertainer or if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which he or she will be employed;
- An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities;
- Evidence that the group has been internationally recognized in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. This may be demonstrated by either submitting evidence of the group's nomination or receipt of significant international awards or prizes for outstanding achievement in its field or by submitting any three of the following different types of documentation:
- Evidence that the group has performed, and will perform, as a starring or leading entertainment group in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation;
- Evidence that the group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in its field;
- Evidence that the group has performed, and will perform, services as a leading or starring group for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
- Evidence that the group has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes and other achievements in the field;
- Evidence that the group has achieved significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field; or
- Evidence that the group has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services comparable to others similarly situated in the field.
- A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization.
Note: Consultation with an appropriate labor organization, that has expertise in the entertainment field, regarding the nature of the work to be done and the group/foreign national entertainer’s qualifications is mandatory before a P-1 petition can be approved. The consultation or “advisory opinion” must be in writing, signed by an authorized official of the organization and must generally be submitted to the USCIS along with the petition when the petition is filed. Alternatively, a labor organization may also submit a letter of no objection if it has no objection to the approval of the petition. In cases where the petitioner can establish that an appropriate labor organization does not exist, USCIS may decide the application on the basis of the evidence on record.
Q: Just a week before she was to travel to the US to perform on a P-1 visa, Julianne met with a serious accident that saw her being hospitalized. As her band’s only female singer, her inability to travel and perform in the US created a huge vacuum, seriously affecting the band’s ability to perform. Their contractual obligations meant that they could not skip performing in the US. They explored the option of having another singer, Cora, who had some prior experience performing with the band, replace Julianne temporarily. However, with only about a week left for travel, they wondered if they could get her petition and visa approved within such short time to enable her travel to the US and perform in the US with the band.
A: Regulations provide for petitioners to request substitution of beneficiaries in an approved P-1 petition for an internationally recognized entertainment group under certain circumstances. To request substitution, the petitioner must submit a letter requesting substitution to the consular office at which Cora will apply for a visa. However, this provision for substitution is not allowed for essential support personnel. In order to add new or substitution essential support personnel, a new I-129 petition must be filed.
Admission into the U.S. on a P-1 Visa
If the P-1 petition is approved and if the beneficiaries of the petition are in the U.S. in another visa status (B-2, for example), then they may be able to remain in the U.S. and commence performing pursuant to P-1B status. If, however, the members of the entertainment group or the essential support personnel are outside the U.S., then they must apply for and obtain a P1B visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. before they can travel to the U.S. and seek admission under the P-1 visa classification.
Under the P-1B classification, entertainers and members of the internationally recognized entertainment group are initially admitted for a period of time that is determined to be necessary to complete the event, activity, or performance for which the entertainment group is coming to the U.S., Such period, however, shall not exceed one year. The same applies to essential support personnel.
P-4 Visa for the family members of P-1 Visa Holders
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of a P-1 entertainer or essential support personnel are entitled to seek P-4 visa classification. If they are accompanying or following to join the P-1 foreign national in the U.S., they will be subject to the same period of admission and limitations as the P-1 entertainer or essential support personnel. Individuals in P-4 status shall not accept employment, but my attend school or college.
After Admission into the U.S.
Change of Employers
While in the U.S., a foreign national artist or entertainer is allowed to work only for the entity that sponsored his or her P visa petition. If, however, a P-1 entertainer in the U.S. wishes to change the sponsoring entity, the new sponsor must file a new petition, and, if necessary, request to extend the foreign national’s stay in the U.S. The entertainer cannot commence employment with the new employer or sponsor until the petition has been approved.
Extension of Stay
An extension of stay may be sought on behalf of P-1 entertainers and essential support personnel in the U.S. to enable them continue or complete the same event or activity for which they were admitted into the U.S. Extensions of stay may be authorized in increments of up to 1 year to enable them to continue or complete the same event, activity or performance. There is no limit as to the number of extensions that may be requested.
The doctrine of “dual intent” appears to be informally recognized for those with P-1 visa classification as entertainers and members of entertainment group. This does not apply to essential support personnel. Generally, the approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of an immigrant visa petition should not be a basis for denying a P-1B petition for an entertainer, a request to extend such a petition, or his or her admission or change of status. Regulations permit foreign national entertainers to legitimately come to the U.S. for a temporary period on a P1 visa and depart voluntarily at the end of his or her authorized stay and, at the same time, lawfully seek to become a permanent resident of the United States. It is important to remember that this does not apply to P-1 essential support personnel.
Termination of Services
If the employment of the P-1 entertainer or essential support personnel is terminated for reasons other than voluntary resignation, then the employer and/or the U.S. Petitioner are liable to pay for the reasonable cost of return transportation to the beneficiary’s residence abroad.
As seen in the forgoing, the P-1 visa classification is available for internationally recognized athletes and foreign national entertainers coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. It is also available to Essential Support Personnel who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 entertainer and who performs support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker. While the P1B visa classification contains many advantages and benefits for entertainment groups, it is restricted to members of internationally recognized entertainment groups, meaning that individual entertainers not performing as part of a group are not eligible for the P1B visa classification.
The spouse and unmarried minor children of a P-1 visa holder can stay in the U.S. in P-4 status with the P-1 foreign national as long as he or she maintains his P-1 status. Those on P-4 visa classification cannot engage in any employment. Further, foreign nationals in P-1 status can engage in part-time study and those in P-4 status can study full-time.
There are no travel restrictions for those on the P-1 visa. P-1 entertainers and essential support personnel and their families can freely travel in and out of the U.S. as long as their visa stamp and status are valid.
After consulting with immigration experts, Shaun realized that while they were an internationally recognized pop band, they needed to demonstrate it by showcasing their achievements, credentials and recognition suitably when submitting the P-1 petition for consideration by USCIS. Becoming aware of the requirements, Shaun set out to gather and compile all the necessary documentation that would ensure a successful P-1 filing for the band.
Contact VisaPro if you have any questions regarding the P-1B visa for internationally recognized entertainment groups, or any other type of visas for artists and entertainers. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.
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