Visa for Entertainers (O,P)
Visa Information for Artists and Entertainers Planning to Perform in the U.S.
The U.S. Government actively encourages professional Turkish cultural and artistic performances in America. To avoid problems with American immigration law in the U.S., it is vital to understand American visa procedures. To facilitate the visa process for performers, the U.S. Mission in Turkey offers the following guidance to potential performers in the U.S.
Who needs a visa?
All Turkish citizens traveling to the U.S. need a visa. If you are a professional artist or member of the entertainment profession, you will probably require a special visa for your travel to the United States, even if you already have a valid B1/B2-tourist visa. In U.S. visa law, a “member of the entertainment profession” includes not only performing artists such as stage and movie actors, musicians, singers and dancers, but also such support personnel as technicians, electricians, makeup specialists, and film crew members.
Advanced planning is critical for those people intending to perform in the U.S. Failure to obtain an approved petition from your employer or agent in the United States in advance will have serious negative consequences. You will NOT be able to obtain a visa without this petition, and you may be forced to postpone or cancel your performance in the U.S.
How do I obtain a petition?
To perform professionally in the United States, your prospective employer or agent in the United States must file Form I-129 (Petition for Non-immigrant Worker) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS). It is very important for the prospective employer to file the petition as soon as possible (but not more than six months before the proposed performance) to provide adequate time for the processing of the petition and subsequent visa. Once approved, the employer or agent is sent a Form I-797 (Notice of Approval). The approval of a petition does not guarantee visa issuance. You still must appear for an interview with a consular officer and demonstrate you have the appropriate qualifications for the visa.
What type of visa do I need?
There are three visa categories for foreigners who will perform professionally in the United States: “O,” “P,” and “B-1.”
“O” visas are reserved for individuals of the highest ability and achievements. “P” visas are for other professional performers and athletes who will receive compensation for their work in the United States. The United States Department of Homeland Security will make the final determination of whether an “O” or “P” visa is most appropriate for you. If your purpose of travel to the United States is in one of these categories, you will need a petition approved by the Department of Homeland Security before you can apply for your visa. (See above “How do I obtain a petition?” and below “What type of special visa do I need?”) A small number of artists and entertainers are able to travel on “B-1” business visas. (See below “Do I qualify for travel on a B-1 visa?”)
What type of special visa do I need?
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will make the final determination of whether an “O” or “P” visa is most appropriate for you. The information below is for reference purposes only.
Among the “O” visa category, there are three classifications. “O-1” visas are for individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or motion picture and television production, which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, and who are coming temporarily to the United States to continue to work in their area of extraordinary ability.
“O-2” visas are for foreigners who are coming temporarily to the United States solely to assist in the artistic or athletic performance of an “O-1” applicant for a specific event or performance. “O-2” applicants must be an integral part of such events and possess critical skills and experience that are not of a general nature and cannot be performed by others. “O-3” visas are for family members of “O-1” applicants.
There are four “P” visa classifications. “P-1” visas are for individuals at an internationally recognized level of performance coming temporarily to the United States to perform at a specific athletic competition, individually or as part of a group or team, or to perform at a specific entertainment performance as a member of an entertainment group. “P-2” visas are for individuals coming temporarily to the United States to perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, under a reciprocal exchange program between the United States and a foreign country.
“P-3” visas are for individuals coming temporarily to the United States to perform, teach, or coach as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group under a commercial or noncommercial program that is culturally unique. “P-4” visas are for the spouse or children of “P-1,” “P-2,” or “P-3” visa recipients.
Do I qualify for travel on a B-1 visa?
Most artists and entertainers practicing their professions in the United States will need an “O” or “P” visa, but some people can travel on a “B-1” business visa. The B-1 visa does not require a petition, but the applicant must meet all three of the following criteria:
- Going to the U.S. to participate only in a cultural program sponsored by the Government of Turkey; and
- Performing for a non-paying audience; and
- All expenses, including per diem, will be paid by the Government of Turkey.
Artists and entertainers going to the U.S. for academic activities (lecturing, guest teaching, performing in an academic-sponsored festival) can travel on a B-1 visa and receive an honorarium payment if:
- The activities last no longer than nine days at any single institution; and
- Honorarium payment is for services conducted for the benefit of the institution; and
- The artist/entertainer has not accepted such payments from more than five institutionsor organizations over the previous six months.
In addition, an entertainer traveling to the U.S. to participate in a competition for which there is no payment other than a prize and expenses can travel on a B-1/B-2 tourist visa.
Musicians may enter the U.S. on a B-1 visa if:
- The musician is coming to the U.S. to use recording facilities for recording purposes only; and
- The recording will be distributed and sold only outside the U.S.; and
- No public performances will be given.
All other members of the entertainment profession who are traveling to the U.S. to work, perform, or exhibit their work will require a specialized “O” or “P” visa that also requires a petition. This requires more time and advanced planning. (See details above under “How do I obtain a petition?”)
The visa interview
If you are applying for an “O” or “P” petition, you should not schedule your interview until your petition has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security.
If you are applying for a B-1 visa, you should be prepared with documentation proving that your proposed activities in the United States conform to one of the categories cited under “Do I qualify for travel on a B-1 visa?” Also, apply well ahead of your proposed artistic or entertainment activities in the U.S. because the Consular Officer may inform you that you actually do need to apply for an “O” or “P” petition-based visa.