There are a variety of visas that can be utilized by individuals in the entertainment industry. The most common visa utilized by actors and other entertainers is the O-1 visa. Musical groups and entertainment acts commonly use the P-1 visas. Individuals from all professions that are at the top of their field can apply for the EB1.1 Extraordinary Ability Petition, which if approved, allows the individual to apply directly for their Green Card. An experienced immigration attorney can tell you which visa is best suited for your individual needs.
First, let us elaborate further on the O-1 Visa as it is a rather common visa for individuals within the entertainment industry. The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa available to foreign nationals who have “distinction” in their field as “demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.” Many individuals get scared away by the hyperbolic language of the statute, but in reality, with the help of an experienced attorney, the O-1 visa standard can be attained by most up and coming professionals who are a slight cut above the rest.
In addition to extraordinary achievement, the O-1 visa requires the sponsorship of a U.S. agent or company to serve as a U.S. Petitioner. The U.S. petitioner/sponsor may be: The actual employer of the individual (for example in a particular production, the production company), the representative of both the employer and the individual; or, a person or entity authorized by the individual to act for, or in place of, the individual as its Agent. Actors will usually fall into this latter category. By having an Agent petition/sponsor the foreign national, the individual will be able to engage in an array of work within the entertainment industry.
The O-1 Visa may initially be requested for up to a period of three years and may be extended in one-year increments indefinitely. There may be many reasons to request less time if the job offer only requires the individual to work in the U.S. for a few weeks or months.