Artist visas

It is the dream of many Artists 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.

Artists, including but not limited to painters, sculptors, tattoo artists, and photographers 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 O-1B is also the correct visa for those with a history of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

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 an Artist visa

There are many benefits to obtaining an Artist 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 an Artist 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, Artists 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 an Artist 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.
  • Still Photographers: Photographers may enter the United States to take photographs so long as they receive no income from a US source.
  • Artists: who want to go to the United States to paint, sculpt etc but who is not under contract with any US employer and does not intend to regularly sell their art work in the United States.

The consequences for Artists 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 an Artist 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 or 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 an Artist 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 Artist/Actor/Musician/Dancer 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 an Artist visa. If you are already in the United States you will automatically change status.

Step 4. Apply for your Artist 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 an Artist 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 contact George 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 is the founder of US Immigration law firm Blue Lake Law. He helps people with extraordinary ability move to the United States to perform. He also helps individuals be with their family or to move for work and can also help when their criminal history is holding them back from their American Dream.

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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