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U.S. Work Visas

Learn about different types of U.S. work visas and the kind of visa you need in order to work and perform in the U.S. Find out about the validity and eligibility for the O and P visas.

Last updated: 07 December 2021

What kind of visa do I need to perform in the U.S.?

 It’s important that you establish which U.S. visa is the most appropriate one to apply for. The crucial thing is to answer these questions objectively:

  1. Are you a solo artist (with or without a band) of exceptional ability? If yes then you should probably be seeking an O-1.
  2. Are you in a band, jazz, or classical ensemble with sustained international renown? If yes then you should probably be seeking a P-1.
  3. Have you been invited to perform at an official music industry showcase event? If yes then you should probably be seeking a B-1, but only if you have no paid gigs, and the principal reason the audience is in attendance is not to be entertained, but to consider hiring you in the future. 
  4. Do you perform folkloric or traditional music, and you are going to the US to give culturally unique presentations? If yes then your best option may be the P-3. 

For how long is an O visa valid? 

It CAN be valid for up to 3 years. However you need to prove you have contractual work for that period of time. The O visa will only last as long as you have contracted work, which could be one day, one week, or three years, or anything in between.

For more information about how this is done, please see Artsists from Abroad website.

For how long is a P visa valid? 

It can be valid for up to 1 year, however you need to prove you have contractual work for that period of time. The P visa will only last as long as you have contracted work, which could be one 2 day, one week, or one year, or anything in between.

For more information about how this is done, please see Artsists from Abroad website.

How do I prove I have extraordinary ability, that my band has sustained international renown, or that we are going to give culturally unique presentations? 

You will need to prove all this through documentary evidence. For information about this, please see Artsists from Abroad website.

Do I need a significant back catalogue? 

It is possible to prove O-1 with only a short career, but the shorter the career, the harder it will be to amass enough evidence to prove your eligibility. The P-1 visa will require evidence that the ensemble has had renown for at least one year. The P-3 visa does not require any sustained career.

For more information, please see Artsists from Abroad website.

Who decides whether I am eligible?

The United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) decides if you have the necessary qualifications, and whether you have bona fide employment. They will make this determination based on the petition that your U.S. petitioner files in the U.S. on your behalf. Once a petition is approved, you will need to apply for the actual visa, at which point the U.S. Department of State decides if some factor (a criminal record, for example) disqualifies you from eligibility.

Can future touring dates help? 

For both O and P visa applications, you need to be able to show that you have contracted work that requires your presence in the U.S. If you have contracted performance dates, these contracts may be able to help you prove that you have bona fide contracted work scheduled in the U.S.

Is it easier to apply for a P-1 rather than an O-1? 

The P is applicable if you are a member of a band and that band is a renowned band. The O is applicable if you are a renowned solo artist. In some rare situations, when a solo artist principally performs with a group—as with ‘Sally Sheep & The Farmers’ (fictional example)—the artist may have the luxury of choosing whether to seek a P or O visa, but usually there is no option. 

What if I am a solo artist with my own renown, but I typically tour with a band that has it’s own identity, e.g.: ‘Sally Sheep & The Farmers’? 

As the solo artist of extraordinary ability, Sally Sheep could apply for an O-1, and The Farmers could seek O-2 visas as Sally’s essential support personnel; alternately, ‘Sally Sheep and The Farmers’ could simply seek a P-1 group visa that would cover the whole band, including Sally.

Disclaimer

This advice should not be relied upon as legal advice, which can be provided only in the course of an attorney-client relationship with reference to all the facts of a specific situation. Any information contained here is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed attorney.

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Contract Advisory Service

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Professional Advice on U.S. Visa Issues

Visa issues can be complex and terms can be subject to change at short notice. We partner with professional organisations that offer free guidance and discounted services to MU members.

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