If you are working in entertainment the odds are at some point you have considered whether or not to try your craft in the United States of America. Regardless of if you are a voiceover artist, screen actor, radio DJ or a trapeze artist, you will fall under the entertainment category. There is an odd misconception that getting a hold of one of these visas is easy peasy. The idea is you fill out a quick form, pay a 50 bucks admin fee and away you go. Well, I hate to disappoint but the experience is the polar opposite. There is a long list of different categories which make you eligible for the O1 Visa and in this article, I will unpack that. Additionally, I will link you to how your family obtain their viases once you obtain your own. So let’s start with the application process itself. You are likely going to need a lawyer unless you are exceptionally knowledgeable on immigration for the United States. The cost for filing your petition (the actual name of the process) is going to be between $6,000 and $7,000. Additionally, it’s good for you to know that the category of the Visa you are applying for which is ‘Alien with exceptional abilities – in the arts’. So let’s delve into what you need for an O1 visa for actors!
Essential O1 Visa for Actors Requirements
The first thing you need is a biography describing your professional career from a global perspective. This document is to be worked on and incorporated into the cover letter your lawyer will send with your petition.
Next up you will need a CV/Resume with all your credits. Honestly, the bigger and healthier this looks the better, but you need to be able to justify and evidence everything you record. The more you have on IMDb the better.
Now it starts to get a bit harder! The next thing you need is around 10 to 20 newspaper and/or magazine articles emphasising your contribution to the specific production and commercial success of those productions. The quality of the article is measured by the impact it has had, so a global reach will be more favourable with immigration.
So the next one might sound easy but it really is not! You will need between 4 and 6 letters of recommendation from directors, producers, agents, etc. As long as they are US entertainment-based and in a position of employing people they are eligible to write. This is a tricky one to achieve because most practitioners do not like getting involved with anything related to immigration.
(letters should include as much information about the author’s background as possible and also a detailed evaluation of your professional career, discussing your productions, how successful they were and how your outstanding work contributed to that success)
The next couple are easy! Save the best for last right? So you will need a copy of your passport and copies of your educational diplomas.
But wait! There is more! Yes, you heard me right, there is more! There are some optional extras to put in here. Now, nobody likes going the extra mile, and extracurricular activities can be time-consuming and boring. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE if you take anything from this article let it be the next sentence: do not underestimate how thorough this process can be because of how amazing you are. When immigration gets your profile they will scrutinise it and even the slightest fault on it and they will clamp down massively. You want to present yourself in the absolute best light you possibly can, there is no space for ego in the process at all. So let’s delve in!
Optional Extras for The O1 Visa
Seems a bit odd, but they love screen captures of various productions! This builds a portfolio and shows them that you can do what you claim to do. It can also be cross-checked against your credits list just to add that extra element of accountability. Remember, they like you to prove everything.
Next up, if you have any awards and/or have been nominated for awards this goes down well too! The awards can be for you personally or for the productions you have starred in. Similar to the press criteria, the bigger the reach the more impactful it will be. So if it’s got a global presence, that works in your favour.
Finally! It is good to show them work contracts you have done evidencing a high salary. You want this figure to be equivalent to USD 100 per hour or more! So if you have some nice healthy 4, 5 or even 6-digit jobs, get them in your petition!
O1 Visa for Actors, the Next Step!
Your lawyer will support you with your deal memo but any potential employer you have in the United States should be involved with this. Effectively this is your calendar for the 3 years of the Visa. Now do not worry too much, things change, but giving immigration a basic idea of what you will be up to is important. I would not ignore year 2 or 3 either in your position. This will only result in them offering you a shorter-term visa rather than the 3-year one you are applying for. Like I said your lawyer will take care of most of the written work, you might just have to make some introductions and start planning your schedule.
The Unions are Involved with Your O1 Visa?
Yes, that is right you heard me! Before your lawyer can submit your petition to immigration, they first recommend you obtain letters of no-objection from Sag-Aftra and AMPTP (The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). Effectively you are moving into their playing field so this is another step in the process that will aid your application when it lands with immigration. Everything else described above needs to be completed prior to even reaching out to the unions so they can see your case as a whole. Once you reach this part of the process it can take a week to a month before getting these letters back. When you do get them back, your lawyer can then file your Visa.
Filing your Petition!
Hooray! Congratulations you are now ready to file your petition! So the good news is, the fee you pay covers everything above! The filing fee, the letters from the unions and so on. But now the long wait starts! In theory, you can be waiting as little as a month for an answer. In reality, they say 3 months is a good benchmark. Though, prepare yourself for it to be much longer. After that, you can enquire as to the status but this does not speed up the process. Though, you do unlock the right to fast-track the application at this point for an additional $2,500. Typically fast-tracked applications are scrutinised more, so if you can wait – it’s a good idea to wait. If your application is denied, you will be given a reason why, it slows the process down and you will need to address that feedback so do your best to ensure it passes the first time. Once your application is approved, it’s time to book your appointment with the consulate at the USA embassy, more on that and how your family obtains their visas in this article.
O1 Visa for Actors by Alan Shires