The Artist and Entertainer Visas: O1, P1, P2, P3, B-1 & B-2
The U.S. visa program is very diverse and broad. It covers a large group of artists and entertainers in addition to individuals with extraordinary ability in the fields of science and technology. Here are the Artist and Entertainer Visas: O1, P1, P2, P3, B-1 & B-2.
O-1 Visas: Extraordinary Ability Artists and EntertainersFor those artists and entertainers who are internationally renowned and have extraordinary talents and abilities, there is the O-1 visa. As with other O-1 visas, these are reserved for the best of the best and the bar is set incredibly high on who would be considered extraordinary enough to merit the award. Usually, this involves being awarded an international honor in their particular field (i.e. Academy Award) or very significant recognition of achievement.
The benefits for those who secure the visa are manifold: the artist or entertainer can be admitted to the United States for an initial period of up to three (3) years; dual intent is supported; and, the spouse and/or dependents of the artist can qualify for an O-3 visa to join the artist.
It is important to remember that the O-1 visa is only available to individual artists and entertainers, and not to individuals who are part of a group. O-2 visas are available to those who are "essential" to the performance of the holder of the O-1 visa. To be eligible for this visa, however, the individual must have skills and experience with the O-1 visaholder that cannot be provided for by a U.S. worker and those skills and experience must be vital to the success of the artist or entertainer in their performance.
O-1 visas must go through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and must be applied for on behalf of the artist or entertainer by the U.S. employer of the artist, a U.S. agent who represents either the artist or the artist's employer, or an agent who is authorized by the employer to act on its behalf. The U.S. based agent must file a petition with the accompanying documents proving the extraordinary ability and skills of the artist and entertainer to USCIS which must then grant or deny the visa.
Along with this documentation, the petition must also provide a copy of the contract between artist or entertainer and the employer or agent, if it is in writing. If it was an oral contract, then a written summary of the terms between the parties must be submitted. Where necessary, third party contracts may also need to be submitted. In some cases, the agent must also submit an itinerary with a discussion of the proposed activities of the artist or entertainer including beginning and end dates of the activities.
If the visa petition is granted, the individual artist or entertainer must then go to their U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for the actual visa.
Dependents up to age 21 and/or spouses of the artist or entertainer may also be eligible for an O-3 visa that would allow them to accompany the artist or entertainer to the United States. The O-3 visa can also be granted for an initial term of up to three years.
P-1 Visa: Entertainment Groups that are Internationally RecognizedGroups are the focus of the P-1 Visa, although the visas themselves are still given to the individual members. The key for the P-1 Visa, however, is that the artist or entertainer seeking the visa must be a member of an internationally recognized and exceptional entertainment group because O-1 visas are reserved for individuals of this caliber.
Those who secure a P-1 visa will be allowed admission for an initial period of one year and the criteria for being considered internationally recognized is slightly lower than the criteria required for an O-1 individual artist visa.
In addition to the members of the group, spouses and dependents under the age of 21 are eligible to accompany the members of the group under P-4 visas. Individual essential support staff who play an integral role in the performance of group and whose services cannot be replicated by a U.S. worker are also eligible to accompany the group under a P-1 visa.
For the entertainment group itself and the individual members to qualify for the visa, however, the regulations require that a minimum of 75 percent of the individual members must have been involved with the group in a substantial and sustained relationship of at least one year. With a group of four musicians, that means three must meet this criteria. In addition to the 75 percent threshold, the entertainment group - not the individual members - must have achieved international recognition due to the high achievement level of the group. The achievement level that is considered high enough is where the group has skills and recognition well above and beyond that of the usual and customary achievements in the field.
Circus performers and circus support personnel who are essential are exempt from the one year and international recognition requirements. However, they are required to be coming to the U.S. to join a nationally recognized circus. Also, in some cases, groups that have achieved national prominence may be able to qualify even though they have not achieved international recognition if they have been recognized in their home country as being exceptional for a substantial amount of time.
As with O-1 visas, the U.S. employer of the group or the group's U.S. agent must file the P-1 petition with the USCIS. The petition must also include a consultation from a suitable labor organization, if one is available, discussing the nature of the performance. In the alternative, the petition can include a statement proving that the group has been together and performing regularly for at last one year. The contract between the group and the employer or agent along with an itinerary of the events must also be submitted. If the petition is granted, the individual members of the group can then proceed to their nearest U.S. embassy to apply for the visa.
P-2 Visas: Individuals or Groups in a Reciprocal ExchangeUnlike P-1 visas, individuals or groups are eligible to seek a P-2 visa provided that they are coming to the United States to take part in a reciprocal exchange program between a U.S. organization and its counterpart in another country. The reciprocal exchange program must be government recognized both in the U.S. and in the other country. The individual artists or entertainment group must have a skill level that is comparable to the skill level of the U.S. artists and entertainers who are traveling to the other country under the program.
Those who successfully petition for a P-2 visa are allowed to remain in the United States for an initial period of up to one year. Again, spouses and dependents under the age of 21 of the artist or entertainer are eligible for a P-4 dependent visa. Essential support staff whose role cannot be taken on by a U.S. worker are also eligible for a P-2 visa.
The petition for a P-2 visa must be filed by the sponsoring U.S. labor organization or the artist's employer with USCIS. Again, there must be a written consultation from a suitable labor organization as well as evidence of the involvement of the labor organization in the exchange negotiation or has agreed that the exchange of artists and entertainers should be submitted.
P-3 Visas: Those performing in a culturally unique programP-3 visas are available to both individuals and entertainment groups who are looking to come to the United States to either teach, coach, or perform in a culturally unique program. Where the artist or entertainment group are coming to the U.S. to share, teach, represent, or interpret a unique or traditional folk, cultural, ethnic, musical, artistic, or theatrical program. The individual or group must also be participating in the U.S. in cultural events which will help to foster understanding of the art form.
Like other P visas, those who secure a P-3 visa can get an initial term of up to one year and the selection criteria are not as rigorous as that of an O-1. Spouses and dependent children under the age of 21 can be eligible for a P-4 visa.
Also like other P visas, the U.S. employer or U.S. sponsoring organization must file the petition for the P-3 visa on behalf of the individuals or members of the group with USCIS. And, the written consultation from a suitable labor organization must be attached. The group or individual can prove their program is culturally unique by either providing affidavits or letters from experts recognized in their area that their skills are authentic, particularly with respect to performing, teaching, or presenting their unique cultural art form to others. The alternative is that the sponsor includes documentation such as newspaper articles or journal entries evidencing the uniqueness of the group or individual with respect to that particular culture. And, as always, if there is an itinerary of performances or stops, this should also be included.
Should the petition be granted, the individual artists or members of the group should go to their nearest U.S. embassy to obtain the actual visa.
P-4 Visas: Dependents and SpousesThese visas as mentioned above are reserved for the dependents - up to age 21 - or spouses of the individual artist/entertainer or member of a group of artists/entertainers to allow the spouse or dependent to accompany the P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holder to the United States. Dependents in the U.S. on a P-4 visa may not work in the U.S, but they may study full-time or part-time in the U.S.
B-1Visas: Artists and Entertainers Coming to Compete or Participate in Certain Cultural ProgramsEven artists and entertainers who have not achieved international fame or recognition may petition for a visa to enter the U.S if they are coming to participate in competitions or certain cultural programs. USCIS approval of a petition is not required, nor does the individual need to have a U.S. employer or agent. The term of a B-1 visa is generally shorter than those of O or P visas, and is usually limited to the amount of time that the individual or members of the group will need to compete or participate. Notably, the spouse and/or dependents of B-1 visa holders are not automatically eligible for a dependent visa.
In exchange for not having to go through USCIS, however, the B-1 visa is designed to only apply to professional artists and entertainers who are looking to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis in limited and specific circumstances. These circumstances include:
- The professional performing artist or entertainer's expenses will be paid entirely by their government, the event is being sponsored by the artist or entertainer's home country and the audience will not be paying for admission.
- The professional artist or entertainer is only coming to the U.S. to compete in a contest for which the only remuneration is a prize and expenses.
- A musician is only coming to the U.S. to use recording facilities, the resulting recording will not be sold in the U.S, and the artist will not give any public performances.
- An artist is coming to the U.S. to paint, sculpt, or the equivalent, the artist has no contract with a U.S. employer, and they have no intention of selling their art on a regular basis in the U.S.
As a general rule, those coming to the U.S. on a B-1 visa cannot be paid a salary by a U.S. employer. However, they can be compensated for expenses related to their time in the U.S., including living expenses.
B-2 Visas & Visa Waiver Program: Artists and Entertainers who are Amateurs (Tourist)Even amateur artists and entertainers have an opportunity to get a visa to come to the U.S. For the purposes of this visa, an amateur artist or entertainer is someone who usually performs without pay other than expenses. And, as long as the artist or group of entertainers will not be paid for their performances and those performances will be done for social or charitable reasons or as part of a competition, the individual or member of the group can be eligible for a B-2 visa. Petitioning through USCIS is not required and dependents and/or spouses are not allowed to seek dependent visas.