Los Angeles Immigration Attorney David M. Sturman

U.S. immigration law makes special visas available for those who are truly outstanding in the field of arts, entertainment, sports, education, and business.

The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa available to foreign nationals who have “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics” which “has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.” It is also available to those in motion pictures and television who can demonstrate a record of “extraordinary achievement.” Most fields of artistic endeavor are included in USCIS′s broad interpretation of the statute and this can include painters, clothing designers, sculptors, singers, musicians, poets, writers, entertainers, actors, playwrights, jugglers, magicians and many other endeavors.  The P visa is reserved for those in sports such as soccer players, football players, gymnasts, tennis players, squash players, swimmers and many other athletes.

For O-1 visas, the foreign individual must be coming to the US to work in his or her field. Persons lawfully in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status may change status to O-1 in the U.S. or may seek the visa at a U.S. Embassy abroad after the petition is approved.  The initial period of stay can be approved for up to a period of three years but may be extended if the work in the U.S. continues. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may join the O-1 visa holder in the U.S. under O-3 status, although they may not work. Support personnel such as band members, coaches or essential workers may seek O-2 visas to assist in the artistic performance by an O-1 visa holder. The O-2 applicant must be an integral part of the actual performances or events and possess essential or critical skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder that are not of a general nature and which are not possessed by another individual.

An O-1 visa applicant must have a person or company to file the O-1 petition and either offer to employ the artist or act as an agent. A U.S. agent may file an O-1 petition in cases involving workers who are traditionally self-employed or workers who use agents to arrange short-term employment on their behalf.  Often times actors and musicians may be petitioned by U.S. based agents. A U.S. 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.

The O-1 visa applicant must demonstrate extraordinary ability in his field through evidence of sustained acclaim.  The USCIS requires that the applicant meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Has performed/will perform services as a lead/starring participant in productions/events with distinguished reputations as shown by critical reviews, ads, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • National/international recognition for achievements through critical reviews, other published materials by or about the applicant in major papers, trade journals/magazines
  • Has performed in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by media articles, testimonials, etc.
  • Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success
  • Has achieved significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, recognized experts
  • Has commanded or will command a high salary in relation to others in the field.
  • Other comparable evidence.

Persons with extraordinary ability may also seek lawful permanent residence if they can establish that they have reached the pinnacle of their field and have established a history or extraordinary achievement.

Our office has successfully filed numerous O-1 visa petitions on behalf of artists both young and old from diverse countries across the globe.  Many have continued to have a highly successful U.S. career and have gone on to obtain lawful permanent residence based upon their extraordinary ability.