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The most appropriate Nonimmigrant Visa category for an artist entering to work temporarily in the U.S. is the O-1 visa, reserved for individuals of extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement. The O-1 has different standards for approval based on whether the individual will enter in motion picture/television, in the arts, or others in business, athletics, science, and education. 


An O-1 for someone in the arts must prove distinction, which is a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that normally encountered, i.e. that the artist is prominent in his/her field of endeavor.  


A slightly higher standard is applied to those entering in business, athletics, science or education requiring proof that the individual is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.  This higher standard, though, is required of everyone in order to immigrate (permanent) in the First Employment Preference category. 


The O-1 standard for an individual in the arts is not international achievement. We merely document the client’s achievements in his/her home country, another country, or internationally if the client can.  Immigration came up with the following laundry list of items:


  1. Proof of one (1) major internationally recognized award in the field; or at least three areas of documentation including the following:


  1. Evidence that the artist has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publication contracts, or endorsements; and/or

  2. Evidence that the artist has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the artist in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications; and/or

  3. Evidence that the artist has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials; and/or

  4. Evidence that the artist has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications; and/or

  5. Evidence the artist has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field. Such testimonials (letters of reference) must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of your achievements; and/or

  6. Evidence that the artist has commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence; and/or

  7. If none of the above applies to the artist’s occupation, submit comparable evidence in order to establish your eligibility.


While the above list appears to be catered to individuals in the front line of the performing arts, #8 allows anyone to form-fit the items to a particular profession. Further, this category allows us to define the client’s field as narrowly as we choose. Therefore, part of our job is to define who the client is to be compared to, educate Immigration on the standards for that particular field/subgroup, and then document the client’s standing compared to others using the above list as closely as possible. Essentially, the first step is to document the client background.  


We always suggest our clients to put together a resume/C.V./Discography/Biography that lists all of their education, experience, achievements, credits, accolades, recordings, commercials, performances, and whether there is anything noteworthy or distinctive about any item.  As an example, a person might be a backup/session singer for an artist that received an award, or sales award, or was #1 on Billboard or other chart, etc. We will credit the client’s work with that artist, and then confirm that their success is an indication of our client’s success and achievements, as well. 


Secondly, we suggest the client to provide all articles about them or their work, awards they received or they collaborated on, copies of CD covers, references and any other information that the client already has available. 


Thirdly, the client should start preparing a list of contacts for letters of reference. These can be from record executives, artists, industry magazine editors/writers/critics, producers, and anyone else that the client might find appropriate. 


After documenting our client’s eligibility, we must go to a Union/Association to have them comment on the individual’s expertise and state that they have no objection to the approval of their O-1 Petition. 




Further, a form/petition must be completed by a sponsor (direct employer in the U.S., or an agent), we must have a contract or confirmation of agreement of terms between the client and the sponsor/agent, and that entity must provide a letter of explanation that indicates either performance/work dates, a request for a contract period, or position for a specific period up to three years. We will prepare all these items based on information our client and the sponsor provide.  


When we have all the documentation ready, the O-1 petition is filed with Immigration, and it usually takes two to four months to receive an approval unless the client asks for Premium processing (only takes 15 days). Upon approval, the client either departs the United States with the approval or we send it to them to process for the O-1 Visa with the U.S. Embassy before returning for their lawful employment.  


Please advise us if you think you may qualify for this type of visa.

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