USAPerforming in the United States

Entertainment Visas

Each year artists from all over the world enter the United States to perform at venues across the United States. Immigration authorities issue visas to many different types of individual artists, performing groups and artists of extraordinary ability. Additionally, these artists and groups may bring support personnel with them. Expedited premium processing is available and the entire process can take as little as four weeks although advance planning is always recommended and you should plan to apply at least two months before your first performance in the United States.

Petitioners must be United States based employers including agents, managers, presenters or organizers. Additionally these visas require an advisory opinion from an appropriate labor organization to be included with the petition.

Applying for these visas is a two-step process. First your application will be sent to United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the petition is approved, artist(s) then applies to the U.S. Consulate abroad for a visa (unless none is required). Length of time for the visas vary depending on the visa and the country the artist is from. Extensions are available.

Additionally, it is important to know that even if USCIS approves a petition, the Consulate may refuse to grant the visa if they believe the artist is not qualified for the visa sought or is inadmissible to the United States for a variety of reasons.

Is all this really necessary to enter the U.S. to perform for a short time?
YES! Even though you may be entering for one event or are not receiving any compensation beyond expenses does not mean that you are not required to have a P or O visa. Circumventing the process can have devastating long term consequences for everyone involved. Do not rely solely on USCIS advice or instructions. The Immigration laws of the United States are complex and confusing. Having your petition prepared by a qualified immigration attorney will help you avoid headaches and give you the best chance of having your petition approved and your visa issued.

Following is a summary of visas available for entertainers.

O-1B Classification: Individual Artists of Extraordinary Ability
This classification is for a person of extraordinary ability entering the United States to work in their area of expertise. Only one person can be included. However O-2 visas can be issued to accompanying personnel entering the U.S. to assist the principal O-1B beneficiary A well prepared petition can qualify a variety of persons including accomplished artists, suddenly successful artists, child prodigies and even students.

Who is an artist?
The definition of arts and artists under the O-1B classification is broad indeed and includes performing arts, visual arts, fine arts and culinary arts. The class is not reserved only for the principal performer or creator. Essential personnel including supervisors, trainers, make-up artists, conductors, coaches, arrangers, choreographers, directors, all types of designers and others who contribute to the creative process may also qualify.

P-1B Classification: Performing Groups
This classification is for foreign based entertainment groups (two members or more) entering the United States solely to perform. The group must be internationally recognized and 75% of the members must have been with the group for at least one year (exceptions apply).

P-3 Classification: Culturally Unique
This classification is for individuals or groups entering the United States to perform, coach, or teach in a culturally unique program either commercial or non-commercial. Culturally unique means “a style of artistic expression, methodology, or medium unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, tribe or other group of persons.” There is no requirement that P-3 performers be together for any length of time.

If you are an agent, employer or promoter who needs to bring artists to perform in the United States, we can help you. Please contact our office for a confidential consultation.