Musician visas

It is the dream of many Musicians to perform in the United States. Unfortunately you will likely need to arrange your visa before you can share your unique creative talents in Los Angeles, New York or any of the hubs of culture across the country. Musicians, including but not limited to: solo artists, bands, DJs, orchestras and directors as well as their essential support personnel such as sound and light technicians often require a visa to perform in the United States.

In most cases, either the O-1B visa or the P-1B visa will be the correct type of visa to apply for. The O-1B visa is for people classed as having extraordinary ability in the arts.

The P-1B visa is for members of internationally recognized entertainment groups. The focus of a P-1B is the entertainment group’s reputation in contrast to the O-1B’s focus on the achievement of the individual.

Benefits of a Musician visa

There are many benefits to obtaining a Musician visa:

  • You can live and work in the United States for an extended period of time
  • The duration of your stay could potentially be unlimited as you may extend your visa as many times as necessary
  • You can work for multiple employers in the United States
  • You can bring your spouse and children younger than 21 with you
  • You can bring your essential support personnel with you

Do I need a Musician visa?

Citizens of some countries such as Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are often eligible to travel to the United States as visitors on the Visa Waiver Program. However, Musicians are not permitted to perform in the United States when visiting on the Visa Waiver Program.

In some extremely limited and specific circumstances, an exception applies and a Musician may travel to the United States to perform. These circumstances include:

  • Participants in Cultural Programs: professional entertainers may visit the United States if they are going only to participate in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country, they will perform in from of a non-paying audience and all expenses will be paid by the person’s government.
  • Participants in International Competitions: professional entertainers may visit the United States to participate in a competition so long as they receive no other payment than a prize and their expenses.
  • Musicians: who want to go to the United States to use recording facilities for recording purposes only. The recordings may not be distributed or sold in the United States and no live performances may be given.

The consequences for Musicians who come to the United States to perform (and do not qualify for one of the exceptions mentioned above) can be severe so it is always important to have the correct visa before performing in the United States.

Requirements to get a Musician visa

The requirements for an O-1B visa are:

  • You must have extraordinary ability in the arts or a history of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture of television industry
  • You must wish to visit the United States to perform or work in your field of ability
  • You must be performing or working at one or more ‘events’
  • You need a US employer, US agent or foreign employer acting through a US agent in order to file your petition
  • You must receive an advisory opinion for a peer group, labor organization or management organization

The requirements for a P-1B visa are:

  • The group must have been together for at least one year
  • 75% of the members must have been in the group for at least one year
  • The entertainment group must be recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline
  • The reputation of the group must be substantial. The group must be internationally recognized, having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.

Some of the requirements are very specific or complicated. Your immigration attorney will be able to explain exactly what they mean and how they apply to you.

What is the process to get a Musician visa

Step 1. Hire an immigration attorney

O-1B and P-1B applications can be very complicated. Your immigration attorney will be able to guide you through the entire process of obtaining your Musician visa.

Step 2. Collect supporting documents

Your attorney will help you to identify all of the documentation and information you need to provide so that they can assemble your petition and visa application.

Step 3. File the I-129 petition

Your attorney will complete the petition and form I-129 with USCIS. Once the I-129 petition is approved you will be able to apply for a Musician visa. If you are already in the United States you will automatically change status.

Step 4. Apply for your Musician visa at a local Embassy or Consulate

Once you receive your approval notice your attorney will arrange an appointment for you at your local Embassy or Consulate. Your attorney will compile a visa application for you and prepare you for your consular interview.

The process of obtaining a Musician visa can be quite complex. It is always a good idea to start the process as early as possible. If you have any questions or would like further assistance, please email George Lake directly at and he will be happy to assist you.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.

George Lake

George Lake is the founder and Managing Attorney at Blue Lake Law. He has lived in the Netherlands for seven years. He studied at Tilburg University where he received a Master’s Degree in International Business Law and studied at Northwestern California University where he received his JD. George is licensed to practice by the State Bar of California.

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