O-1 and P-1 Visas (Artists/Entertainers)

O-1 and P-1 visas are available to individuals or groups with exceptional talent or extraordinary ability including musicians, artists, actors, and athletes.

O-1 Visas:  Artists and Entertainers of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The O-1 visa category is available to people who have (i) extraordinary ability in the fields of art, science, education, business, or athletics as demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim or (ii) a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.  The key focus of the O-1 visa petition is to show that your degree of skill and recognition is exceptional and above the level ordinarily encountered in the field.

Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick most often works with O-1 visa clients with extraordinary ability in the arts and entertainment industry, particularly musicians.  To establish that a person has extraordinary talent in the arts, the petition must provide evidence of:  (i) the person’s receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as a Grammy or (ii) at least three of the following:

1. Evidence that the alien 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, publications contracts, or endorsements;

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

3. Evidence that the alien 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;

4. Evidence that the alien 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 pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;

5. Evidence that the alien has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements;

6. Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

The evidentiary standards for establishing extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics are similar to those listed above, however they are tailored to these particular fields.

Who may file an O-1 petition? 

An O-1 visa petition may only be filed by a United States employer, a United States agent, or a foreign employer through a United States agent.

A United States agent may file a petition in cases involving workers who are traditionally self-employed or workers who use agents to arrange short-term employment on their behalf with numerous employers, and in cases where a foreign employer authorizes the agent to act on its behalf. A United States Agent may be: The actual employer of the beneficiary, the representative of both the employer and the beneficiary; or, a person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent.

What Evidence Must be Included in the Petition? 

Immigration Petitions for O-1 visa aliens should, among other things, be accompanied by the following:

  • The evidence specified in the particular section for the classification;
  • Copies of any written contracts between the petitioner and the alien beneficiary or, if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed;
  • An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities; and
  • A written advisory opinion(s) from the appropriate consulting entity or entities.

How do I Satisfy the Written Advisory Opinion Requirement? 

In addition to the petition, the employer must submit an advisory opinion from a peer group regarding the person’s eligibility for the visa.  The peer group can be a professional organization or associate of peers in the same field.  The advisory opinion should describe the person’s ability and achievements in the field, the duties to be performed and state whether the position requires the services of a person with extraordinary ability. In the event the beneficiary of extraordinary ability in the field of arts has previously held an O-1 visa and is seeking to enter the US within two years of a previous written advisory opinion, the need to provide a new written advisory opinion may be waived.

The attorneys at Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick provide full counsel throughout the O-1 process, including in regards to the written advisory opinion.

How Long will my O-1 Visa Last?

If the petition is successful, the O-1 visa can be approved for a maximum of three years at a time. Beneficiaries may apply for unlimited extensions should they be able to provide additional evidence of upcoming events or employment. However, O-1 visas are not always approved for three years. When a person applies for an O-1 visa, the validity dates are set around the specific period of time that is required to perform or participate in a certain event or events. For example, if the beneficiary has only one short event or project in which he or she wishes to participate, then the USCIS will approve the O-1 visa to cover only this time period.

What About my Essential Support Personnel?

The O-2 visa category is designed to facilitate the admission of persons providing essential support to artists and athletes of extraordinary ability and aliens of extraordinary achievement.  Although a separate petition must be filed for a person seeking O-2 status, the classification does not allow the person to work separate and apart from the O-1 alien to whom he or she provides support.  To accompany an alien of extraordinary ability, the person must (i) assist in the performance of the O-1 alien (ii) be an integral part of the actual performance and (iii) have critical skills and experience with the O-1 alien which are not general in nature or possessed by a US worker.  To accompany an alien of extraordinary achievement, the person must have critical skills based on (i) a pre-existing longstanding working relationship with the O-1 alien or (ii) continuing and essential participation in a signification production that will take place in and outside the United States.  As with the O-1 category, the employer must submit an advisory opinion from a “peer group” regarding the person’s eligibility for the O-2 visa.

Unlike the O-1 non-immigrant however, the O-2 visa applicant must satisfy the consular officer that he or she has a residence abroad and no intent to abandon that residence.

What About my Dependents? 

The beneficiary’s spouse and unmarried minor children are eligible to apply for dependent O-3 visas to accompany the beneficiary. Dependents may study in the United States, but are unable to accept employment.

P-1 Visas:  Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group

Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick represent clients who are members of internationally recognized entertainment groups seeking to work temporarily in the United States under the P-1 category of visa.

The P-1 visa is applicable to aliens entering the US to perform as an internationally recognized entertainment group, having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. The reputation of the group, not the individual achievements of its members or the acclaim of a particular production, is essential.

An entertainment group consists of two or more persons who function as a unit.  The eligibility criteria for the P-1 visa category is very similar to the above listed O-1 criteria, with the following additions:

  • The group must have been together for at least one year
  • Three-fourths (75%) of the members must have been in the group for at least one year

P-1 support personnel may also secure visas, however these will require separate petitions.

The beneficiary’s spouse and unmarried minor children are eligible to apply for dependent P-4 visas to accompany the beneficiary. Dependents may study in the United States, but are unable to accept employment.

What are the advantages to a P-1 vs. an O-1?

The O-1 has a few distinct advantages over the P-1 visa.  For example, P-1 entertainers may not perform separate and apart from their group.  A member of a group wishing to perform on his/her own must obtain an O-1 visa to do so.  In addition the P-1 is usually issued for the duration needed for the employment itinerary, but with a maximum issue date of one year (as opposed to the 3 year maximum of the O-1 category).  Finally, a P-1 alien is required to demonstrate non-immigrant intent and to maintain a foreign residence.

To find out if you qualify for the O-1 or P-1 visa category, Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick will provide a bespoke consultation and assessment before proceeding with your petition.