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U.S. Work Visa for Performers

In order for someone to work on a film, television, or theatre project in the United States and be paid, they must possess the proper work authorization. Please note production companies of repute will not allow a person with no legal work permissions to work for free to bypass this. Artists and entertainers who are not U.S. citizens or do not possess a EB1 Green Card, would need the proper work entertainment visa, which would be the 0-1 visa. Here we will discuss what the O-1 is and how to obtain one.


What is an O-1 Visa?

An O-1 visa allows the possessor to live and work in the U.S. on a temporary basis. The visa is usually granted for a period of time up to 3 years. Extensions of time may be granted upon request. One nice thing about this visa is that the holder is allowed dual intent. That means that the person can maintain the O-1 while simultaneously applying to get a Green Card that will allow permanent U.S. residency.

O-1 Visa Requirements

A person must demonstrate that they possess "an extraordinary ability" in:

  • Arts, motion picture or television industry
  • Athletics
  • Business
  • Education
  • Science

"Extraordinary ability" means that the person has achieved status at the very top of the field that they are working in. This usually amounts to a small percentage of the population. 

The applicant must be able to show evidence that they have been recognized as a prominent member of their field. In regards to acting, this would be evidenced by a substantial body of work or awards that the person has achieved (for more on this, see below).

Further, in order to apply for the visa, the person must have an offer of employment from an employer in the U.S. for work in their respective field.

As with applicants for visas of any kind, the person must meet certain health requirements and be of good character.


Evidence of Having Achieved Top of the Field Status 

The following are some of what would be useful in showing that you have attained renown in your specific field of expertise:

  • Evidence of media coverage (articles about your performance, press releases, advertisements that showcase your part in the project, critic's reviews, etc.)
  • DVDs or digital media of your projects
  • Physical evidence of awards that you have won 
  • Proof from producers that you have worked for showing box office sales/receipts for projects that you appeared in
  • Proof that you have made substantial income from performing


Costs Associated with Getting the O-1 Visa

To go through the process of applying for the visa, there will be the cost of the immigration lawyer you will likely need and the government application costs. The lawyer fees will likely vary depending on who you retain. As far as the application fee, that would be $460.00.


For further information about visas, you may want to contact the U.S. embassy within your respective country or contact legal counsel.

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