O-1 & P-1 Nonimmigrant Visas for Musicians, Athletes & Performers
O-1: Individual with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
- The O-1A visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. “Extraordinary Ability” means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.
- The O-1B visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts, or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction, or a high level of achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered in the industry. Similarly, beneficiaries in the motion picture or television industry must demonstrate skill and recognition that is outstanding, notable or leading in the field.
- The O-2 visa is for individuals who will accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance. The O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of or “essential to” the O-1’s work in the U.S. The O-2 worker must have critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and that are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.
To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim with plans to continue working in the U.S. in that area of extraordinary ability.
P-1: Individual or Team Athlete, or Member of an Entertainment Group
- The P-1A visa classification applies to foreign nationals coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete – individually or as part of a group or team – at an internationally recognized level of performance.
- The P-1B classification applies to foreign nationals coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time. At least 75% of the members must have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year. The reputation of the group, not the individual achievements of its members or the acclaim of a particular production, is essential. Note: Individual entertainers not performing as part of a group are not eligible for this visa classification.
- Essential Support Personnel who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 athlete/team or entertainment group, and who perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker, are also eligible for P-1 classification. Support personnel may include coaches, scouts, trainers and other team officials and referees (P-1A support), or front office personnel, camera operators, lighting technicians and stage personnel (P-1B support).
Application Process and Required Documentation
A U.S. employer or agent may file an O-1 or P-1 petition with USCIS. An 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.
O-1 and P-1 petitions require comprehensive documentation, and the regulations set forth specific criteria for these categories. Typically, all petitions must include at a minimum:
- Documentation of the beneficiary’s ability, achievements and recognition to the extent that the applicant satisfies the O-1 or P-1 criteria, per the specified evidentiary criteria set forth by the regulations for each category;
- A written advisory opinion and/or consultation from a peer group (including labor organizations);
- Detailed itinerary with the dates and locations of work/events with an explanation of the nature of the events or activities;
- A copy of the contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary or summary of terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed.
Once the petition is approved by USCIS, the individual must then apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
O-1 and O-2 nonimmigrants may be admitted to the U.S. for the validity period of the petition up to three years, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends. The beneficiary may only engage in authorized employment during the validity period of the petition. Unlimited extensions may be granted in up to three-year increments.
P-1 Individual athletes may be admitted for the time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed five years. Extensions may be granted up to a total stay of 10 years.
P-1 Athletic groups and Essential Support Personnel may be admitted for the time needed to complete the event, competition/activity or performance, not to exceed one year. Extensions may be granted in increments of one year.
Dependents of O-1 and P-1 visas holders (spouses of and children under the age of 21) may obtain O-3 and P-4 status, respectively. Dependents may not engage in employment, but may attend school or college.