6 Things to Consider Before Applying for a US Artist Visa
In case you haven’t been paying attention lately, the United States have been cracking down more and more on immigration. That means it is becoming increasingly difficult for artists from around the world to acquire their visa to play in America.
Before artist might have been able to slip past through customs for a gig or two on a tourist visa but that is now a thing of the past. If you aren’t from the US and want to play in the US, you’ll need what is called an O-1B Visa also known as a nonimmigrant visa for those that possess extraordinary ability in the arts.
In order to qualify for the O-1B Visa you’ll need to be recognized nationally and internationally. We’ve put together a list of 6 things to consider before you schedule your next tour in the US:
1 – How Far in Advance is Your First Gig?
The visa process is quite complex and there is quite a bit of back and forth. Even once you have all your documents ready and prepared, it can still take a couple months for the US government to process everything.
The itinerary is going to be based around your first gig, so you want to plan accordingly. You’ll not only need all the contracts signed and dated before you proceed with processing but also the employment letters, recommendation letters, agency agreements, and the USCIS forms signed and mailed as well as all the accompanying press.
You want to make sure that you have at least 3 months lead time before your first gig otherwise you might be required to file for premium processing which costs nearly as much as the process for the entire visa.
Even once you have all your gigs locked in and confirmed, it can often take time for promoter and venue contacts to get back to you or your manager/agent with all the paperwork. For this reason, you want to make sure you have as much time as possible ahead of your first gig or in other words, the first time you land in America.
2 – How Many Gigs Do You Have Planned?
The US tends to have some of the strictest immigration laws in the world. Many artists are able to travel throughout various countries in Europe, South America, or Asia on tours or for one or two gigs freely without having to go through a strenuous visa application each and every time. Unfortunately in the United States this isn’t the case.
In order to come to the United States as a working artist, you’ll need a performance artist visa. This means that you need to prove to the United States that you are a performing artist of extraordinary talent. Not only will you have to prove that you’ve toured throughout Europe and your home country but you’ll also have to prove that you are touring regularly throughout the United States as well.
The US performance work visa aka the O1-B visa can be acquired for up to one year for groups or duos and up to three years for a single act. This means you’ll need to show that you are touring throughout the United States for the duration of the visa. So if you are applying for a one year visa, you’ll need to show that you have multiple gigs throughout the entire year and if for a 3 year visa, you’ll need to show that you are touring in the US for the entire 3 years.
Not to worry though, promoters are well aware of this requirement and are happy to sign off on contracts for multiple dates across multiple years. Just keep in mind, since these visas are meant for international touring artists, you’ll need to show that you are booking tours. So one show in New York and one show in DC or even a few shows here and there might not be enough. You’ll need multiple shows in multiple locations spread out across the year, such as a Friday in New York, a Saturday in LA, and a Sunday in San Francisco in March, June, September, and December in 2019, 2020, and 2021 for the 3 year visa for example.
3 – Recommendation Letters
Recent changes in the requirements by US immigration disallow someone with financial ties to write the testimonial or recommendation letters. Due to this, you’ll need someone that you haven’t done business with in the past to write these letters for you. Not only that but they’ll also need to be on a professional letterhead as well.
Therefore it is best to get these letters from the editor of a media outlet who has either interviewed you in the past or written about you. You can also get another DJ or producer that you haven’t worked with before but knows you well to write these letters. They just have to be reputable and prolific in the industry.
4 – How Much Press Do You Have?
In order to qualify for the visa, you’ll need a substantial amount of press. The larger the media outlet and the more in-depth the feature the better off you’ll be. Interviews in internationally known and recognized publications and major features will suffice. Keep in mind that the press also has to be in English and Google translator unfortunately doesn’t cut it.
Not only will you need press on yourself but you’ll also need to make sure that the venues that you are performing at in the US have substantial press on them and also gather press from past venues you’ve played at as well. Since the press all has to be in English, it helps to gather past venue contracts from countries such as Australia or the UK or English speaking countries so that you don’t have to worry about trying to search for press in English for a venue in Germany.
Not only will you want press from your own country but you’ll also want press from US media outlets and media outlets that are internationally known and recognized. They also have to have a significant social media following and get enough traffic to suffice. If the media outlet doesn’t have over 50,000 views a month or doesn’t specifically talk about electronic music or artists it might not be sufficient enough to cut it.
5 – Past Contracts
Not only do you need contracts for your upcoming gigs but you’ll also need contracts from past gigs as well. Unfortunately the US immigration won’t translate these contracts for you and Google translator isn’t good enough. So in the case you have contracts in Spanish or Italian, you won’t be able to submit these as evidence unless you want to pay to have them translated by a certified translator.
So it helps to keep copies of the contracts for all your past gigs, especially if they are gigs in English speaking countries. As with press and gigs, the more you have the better off you are.
6 – US Representation
Not only do you need an attorney in the US to file the paperwork, but you’ll also need someone to act as your agent and petitioner who is located in the United States. Unfortunately if your agent or manager isn’t physically located in the United States they won’t be able to physically sign and mail the documents to USCIS.
Not only will you need your agent and petitioner to be located in the US but you’ll also need a certified US attorney as well. The attorney can also advise on whether or not you have all the appropriate documents and whether or not you will qualify for the visa or not. The attorney can also advise on the processing time as well as whether or not there are any additional or new requirements or costs involved with the process also.
Although many agents, managers, and promoters claim to be well-versed in the process, USCIS aka United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is continuously implementing new regulations and requirements, especially with the new administration. You don’t want to risk not working with a licensed US immigration attorney as well as an agency in the US who deals regularly deals with the process.
Enroot PR can also assist with all aspects of the visa process from start to finish. With years of experience working with dozens of international DJs and producers, Enroot PR will make sure that you get through US customs safely and efficiently and don’t miss your first gig.
Originally appeared in www.6amgroup.com