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How to get a visa for work in Theatre for the USA

By George Lake

It is the dream of many of those who work in Theatre to perform in the United States. Unfortunately you will likely need to arrange your visa before you can share your unique creative talents in Los Angeles, New York or any of the hubs of culture across the country.

Visas for Theatre workers

Jobs in theatre include but are not limited to: Playwright, Director, Assistant Director, Choreographer, Dance Captain, Set Designer, Costume Maker, Costume Designer, Pattern Cutter, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Musical Director, Composer, Wigs, Hair and Make-Up Designer, Performer, Circus Performer and Actor. All of these positions often require a visa to perform in the United States.

In most cases, either the O-1B visa or the P-1B visa will be the correct type of visa to apply for. The O-1B visa is for people classed as having extraordinary ability in the arts.

The P-1B visa is for members of internationally recognized entertainment groups. The focus of a P-1B is the entertainment group’s reputation in contrast to the O-1B’s focus on the achievement of the individual.

Benefits of visa to work in Theatre

There are many benefits to obtaining a visa to work in Theatre:

  • You can live and work in the United States for an extended period of time
  • The duration of your stay could potentially be unlimited as you may extend your visa as many times as necessary
  • You can work for multiple employers in the United States
  • You can bring your spouse and children younger than 21 with you
  • You can bring your essential support personnel with you

Do I need a visa to work in Theatre?

Citizens of some countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom are often eligible to travel to the United States as visitors on the Visa Waiver Program. However, those wishing to work in Theatre are not permitted to perform in the United States when visiting on the Visa Waiver Program.

In some extremely limited and specific circumstances, an exception applies and those wishing to work in Theatre may travel to the United States to perform. These circumstances include:

  • Participants in Cultural Programs: professional entertainers may visit the United States if they are going only to participate in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country, they will perform in from of a non-paying audience and all expenses will be paid by the person’s government.
  • Participants in International Competitions: professional entertainers may visit the United States to participate in a competition so long as they receive no other payment than a prize and their expenses.

The consequences for those wishing to work in Theatre who come to the United States to perform (and do not qualify for one of the exceptions mentioned above) can be severe so it is always important to have the correct visa before performing in the United States.

Requirements to get visa to work in Theatre

The requirements for an O-1B visa are:

  • You must have extraordinary ability in the arts
  • You must wish to visit the United States to perform or work in your field of ability
  • You must be performing or working at one or more ‘events’
  • You need a US employer, US agent or foreign employer acting through a US agent in order to file your petition
  • You must receive an advisory opinion for a peer group, labor organization or management organization

The requirements for a P-1B visa are:

  • The group must have been together for at least one year
  • 75% of the members must have been in the group for at least one year
  • The entertainment group must be recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline
  • The reputation of the group must be substantial. The group must be internationally recognized, having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.

Some of the requirements are very specific or complicated. Your immigration attorney will be able to explain exactly what they mean and how they apply to you.

What is the process to get a visa to work in Theatre

Step 1. Hire an immigration attorney

O-1B and P-1B applications can be very complicated. Your immigration attorney will be able to guide you through the entire process of obtaining your visa to work in Theatre.

Step 2. Collect supporting documents

Your attorney will help you to identify all of the documentation and information you need to provide so that they can assemble your petition and visa application.

Step 3. File the I-129 petition

Your attorney will complete the petition and form I-129 with USCIS. Once the I-129 petition is approved you will be able to apply for a visa to work in Theatre. If you are already in the United States you will automatically change status.

Step 4. Apply for your visa to work in Theatre at a local Embassy or Consulate

Once you receive your approval notice your attorney will arrange an appointment for you at your local Embassy or Consulate. Your attorney will compile a visa application for you and prepare you for your consular interview.

How can an Immigration Attorney Assist you with a visa to work in Theatre?

O-1 and P-1 visas can be difficult applications to put together. A US immigration attorney can assist you with putting together a visa application – potentially coordinating it with other immigration applications and increase your chances of success.

Further, A US immigration attorney would be able to prepare the entire application in a way which will be accepted first time, not include any mistakes at the time of filing and be able to guide you throughout the process, anticipating questions and requested documents before they are formally required. In short, a US immigration attorney can save you time and delay.

Blue Lake Law has extensive experience in completing visa applications for those who wish to work in the Theatre in the United States and we would be happy to assist anyone who may be interested in this route. We can prepare the I-129, visa applications and all supporting documents that need to be created and prepare you for your interview as well as any other immigration applications and petitions which you might need to immigrate to the United States.

If you are looking for a visa as a musician or an artist read more about those here: How to get a musician visa for the USA How to get an artist visa for the USA

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