As a musician of international acclaim, you may find yourself traveling to America.

Whether it’s for award shows, the American leg of your world tour, or even recording in a studio in the U.S., you are going to need a visa for any extended periods of musical work.

This is how to get a U.S. visa as a musician.

What Visa Is Necessary For A Musician?

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First things first, you will need to know what type of visa you are going to need in order to stay in the U.S.

This is critical, as the Daryanani Law Group, an immigration law firm, cited an incident in 2017 where several musicians traveling to America to perform at a music festival were denied entry because they applied for the incorrect visa.

So let’s take a look at the different visa options available to musicians and what each are most useful for.

O-1 B Visa for One or Two Musicians

In order to be eligible for an O-1 B Visa, you need to be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability as a musician as defined by U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Simply put, extraordinary ability is any national or international critical acclaim for your work.

This includes proof of receiving recognition such as an Academy Award, Emmy or Grammy.

If you are not able to supply evidence of one of these, then you need to supply at least three of the following:

  • Evidence that you have performed in a lead or starring role in a distinguished production that has received critical review and/or publicity
  • Evidence that you have achieved national or international recognition for your achievements by reviews or in published material
  • Evidence that you have a record of major commercial success that can be corroborated with titles, box office receipts, or media appearances
  • Evidence that you have received recognition from prestigious groups, governments, experts or critics
  • Evidence that you maintain a high salary for your services
  • Evidence that you have performed, and will continue to perform, in a lead role for organizations that have a distinguished reputation

Once you have been able to collect evidence of extraordinary ability you must get a sponsor, also known as a petitioner, to file an I-129 Form (Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers) through the USCIS office.

Your sponsor must be a peer, group, or company that is associated with your area of extraordinary ability.

In addition to filing an I-129, your sponsor will also need to write you a consultation. This consultation should have any watermarks associated with the peer, group, or company in order to establish authenticity.

Some form of documentation proving that a contract between you and your employer must also be provided.

This can either be a formal contract or a verbal agreement so long as said agreement can be proven (email chains, informal written offer, etc.) Contracts are acceptable so long as it can be proven that:

  • Something was offered by the employer
  • Something was accepted by the employee

You will also need an itinerary of the events you will be scheduled to perform or work at during your stay in the U.S., how long you will be at each event or location, and any itineraries for the specific events you will be attending.

Once you have all the specific documentation, and your petition is accepted by USCIS, then you are ready to apply for your U.S. O-1B Visa.

Just go to a United States embassy or consulate, fill out the necessary forms and pay either a visa application fee or a reciprocity fee.

P-1B Visa for Musical Groups

The P-1B Visa is for musicians who are coming to the United States to perform as a group. This might include a musical act like a band.

However, it’s important to note that there need to be a minimum of two people in the musical group, international acclaim for the entire group must be established, and at least 75% of the members of the group need to have worked together for at least a year.

Much like the O-1B Visa, you will need to file an I-129 petition and all of the same supporting documentation.

In the case of a P-1B Visa, USCIS recommends using an appropriate labor union for your sponsor and consultation.

Your sponsor must also include a list of each member in the group and the dates which each of those members have been employed by the group.

Supporting and essential staff (stage management, production crew, etc.) must file for a P-1S Visa.

P-3 Visa for Culturally Unique Performances

The P-3 Visa is for any musical groups who are coming to the U.S. for the purpose of developing or teaching a unique musical or artistic performance.

This performance can be either commercial or non-commercial. Essential documentation is the same as the O-1B.

Cultural Exchange Visas

How To Get A U.S. Visa As A Musician

There are two visas that are used for international musical cultural exchange: the P-2 Visa and the Q-1 Visa. While the two are almost identical in use, it is important to note the differences.

The P-2 Visa allows musicians to stay in increments of one year.

The program must also be recognized by the government and the musicians being involved in the exchange must be comparable to their U.S. counterparts. A labor organization must also be the sponsor for the musician or group.

The Q-1 Visa allows musicians to stay in the U.S. for fifteen months. In order to enter the U.S. with a Q-1, a sponsoring organization must prove that they are an established international cultural exchange program.

The activities or events must also take place in a public setting. Essential documents for both are the same as the O-1B.