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What are the visas available for musicians to enter the United States?


Girl singing as a musician

The United States has always been a welcoming country to artists of all genres as well as talented performers from various cultures, showering them with appreciation, recognition, and rewards. The options of visas available for musicians are different and designed specifically with varying provisions at hand, therefore, it is necessary to understand what your options are, their purposes, and their applicability to your circumstance. There are many different visas, and while a visitor might qualify for several different kinds at any given time, choosing the appropriate visa simplifies the process.



Example of Visas Available for Musicians


O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Abilities or Achievement

The O-1 visa is exclusively for individual artists and entertainers, excluding members of a band who have exceptional accomplishments. Nevertheless, the band's lead member is eligible for the visa. As for the other band members who play a crucial role in the performance, they can apply for an O-2 visa. To qualify for an O-2 visa, these members must possess essential skills and experience that cannot be easily replicated by a US worker, and their contribution is vital to the successful performance of the O-1 artist. In this manner, the entire band or singing group can obtain work visas within the O category.


In order to apply for the O-1 visa, a petition must be filed on your behalf by your US employer or agent with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They must submit supporting documents that prove your extraordinary ability as a musician or singer. You must also include a copy of your contract with your employer or agent. If the agreement was made orally, summaries of the discussions should be provided. The contract should clearly outline the activities you will be involved in and the duration of your engagement. These activities must align with the area of extraordinary expertise that has been demonstrated. Furthermore, your spouse and children are eligible to apply for an O-3 dependent's visa.



P-1 Visa: A Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group

The P1 visa is specifically intended for artists and entertainers, including musicians and singers, who are coming to the United States for a temporary period. This 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. To apply for the P1 visa, the US employer of the entertainment group or their US agent must submit a P1 petition to the USCIS. Similar to the O-1 visa, there should be a consultation from a suitable labor organization that discusses the nature of the performance. Additionally, a contract between the employer/agent and the entertainment group/individuals must be included, along with an itinerary of the scheduled events. The duration of the P visa will only correspond to the contracted work period, which could range from a two-day event to a week, a year, or any duration in between.



P-2 Visa: Individual Performer or Part of a Group Entering to Perform Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program


The P-2 visa category is applicable when you are planning to temporarily perform as an artist or entertainer, either individually or as part of a group, under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country. To qualify for a P-2 visa, either a sponsoring labor organization in the United States or your US employer must file Form I-129, known as the Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker, on your behalf. If the petitioner is acting as an agent for multiple employers, they must provide evidence of being authorized to act as an agent. If the performances or events are scheduled to take place in multiple locations, an itinerary detailing the dates and locations of the events must be submitted.



P-3 Visa: Artist or Entertainer Coming to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program

If you are planning to come to the United States temporarily to perform, teach, or coach as an artist or entertainer, either individually or as part of a group, and the program you will be involved in is culturally unique, then the P-3 classification is applicable to you. In order to qualify, your purpose of travel should be to participate in activities that involve the development, representation, coaching, or interpretation of a distinctive or traditional musical, folk, cultural, or artistic performance or presentation. Additionally, you must be traveling to an event or program that will contribute to the further development of your understanding or presentation of your particular art form.



B-1 Visa: Temporary Business Visitor

The B1 visa, also referred to as the Temporary Business Visitor visa, allows for a temporary visit to the United States for engaging in commercial or professional business activities. Musicians can enter the US under B-1 status specifically for the purpose of utilizing recording facilities, solely for recording purposes, with the condition that the recordings will be distributed and sold exclusively outside the US, and no public performances will take place.


The key advantage of the B1 visa is that it does not require a petition approval from the USCIS. This results in a quicker application process and reduced costs. It also means that you do not necessarily need an agent or employer to sponsor your application. However, it's important to note that under this visa category, you are not permitted to receive a salary from a US source. This restriction exists because you would not have fulfilled any tax or levy obligations associated with your visa. If your work requires a longer duration, you can apply for an extension of stay once the previous period has expired.



B-2 Visa: Temporary Pleasure Visitor

Amateur artists and performers, as well as entertainment groups, who are not receiving payment for their performances and will be engaging in social and/or charitable activities, or participating as competitors in talent shows or contests, may be eligible to apply for a B-2 visa. Similar to the B-1 Business visa, the B-2 Tourist visa is categorized as a visitor visa and does not require prior approval of a petition from USCIS before submitting the visa application. Under a B-2 visa, amateur artists and performers are typically admitted for a maximum duration of six months. Extensions of stay may be granted in increments of no more than six months each. Unlike the O and P visas, the spouse and children of B-2 artists and entertainers are not eligible to apply for a "dependent" visa. Instead, they would need to independently qualify for their own B-2 visitor visa.





There are many visas for professionals in the music. This article covers a sample of these visas. The requirements, restrictions, and specific permissible activities of each visa category can be complicated. However, consulting an immigration attorney can help determine which option is best and guide your throughout the process. For more information on how we can assist you, please visit our website at www.elizeelawfirm.com or email us at intro@elizeelawfirm.com.


Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of the Elizee Law Firm, an immigration law firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. Phone 305-371-8846.

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