Artists, Athletes and Entertainers

Professionals who work as artists, actors, producers, directors, athletes, musicians, entertainers, and their support staff have a variety of options available to them to obtain permission for a temporary stay in the United States:

  • O-1 Extraordinary Ability, and O-2:

O-1 visas are available to applicants of "extraordinary ability" in the field of sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field. This category is broad and can be appropriate for such diverse applicants as cutting-edge scientific researchers, visionary corporate executives and professional basketball players. O-2 visas are available to key support staff who have critical skills and experience assisting O-1-qualified individuals. O visas require union or peer group advisory opinions. They are approved for the duration of the event for which the visa is granted.

Individuals seeking this visa must be able to demonstrate their extraordinary ability through documentation of sustained national or international acclaim in their field. O-1 petitions are more likely to be successful if a beneficiary has received national or international awards, has a record of press about their work, authored writings in well-known publications, made original contributions to their field, worked for organizations or on projects with a distinguished reputation, earns a high salary or has other similar achievements.

Those individuals who can qualify for the O-1 visa can usually also meet the legal standard for the corresponding immigrant classification, the EB-1 (extraordinary ability).

  • P-1 Internationally Recognized Athlete or Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group, and P-4:
The P-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign nationals who are artists, athletes and entertainers to enter to the United States for a specific event, competition, or or performance. Individual athletes as well as entire athletic teams may enter on a P-1A status. Members of internationally recognized entertainment groups may enter on a P-1B status. To be eligible, individual athletes must be internationally recognized with a high level of achievement, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country. Athletic teams, similarly, must have achieved significant international recognition in the sport. Entertainment groups 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. Additional eligibility requirements also apply. 

Once a P-1 visa has been granted, it allows the visa holder to enter the U.S. and perform for payment or prize money, engage in part-time study, apply for visas for accompanying support personnel, and apply for P-4 visas for his or her dependents. The P-1 may allow the holder to remain in the U.S. for up to five years, with extensions not to exceed a total stay of ten years.
  • P-2 Performer or Group Performing Under Reciprocal Exchange Program, and P-4: 
The P-2 classification applies to you if you are coming temporarily to perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country.

Once a P-2 visa has been granted, it allows the visa holder to enter the U.S. and perform for payment or prize money, engage in part-time study, apply for visas for accompanying support personnel, and apply for P-4 visas for his or her dependents. The P-1 may allow the holder to remain in the U.S. for the time required to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed one year. Extension of stay may be possible in increments of up to one year in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance. 
  • P-3 Artist or Entertainer Part of a Culturally Unique Program, and P-4;
The P-3 classification applies to you if you are coming temporarily to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique. To be eligible for a P-3 visa, you must be coming to the U.S. for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical or artistic performance or representation. In addition, you must be coming to the United States to participate in a cultural event or events which will further the understanding or development of your art form. The program may be of a commercial or noncommercial nature. 

Once a P-2 visa has been granted, it allows the visa holder to enter the U.S. and perform for payment or prize money, engage in part-time study, apply for visas for accompanying support personnel, and apply for P-4 visas for his or her dependents. The P-1 may allow the holder to remain in the U.S. for the time required to complete the event, activity or performance, not to exceed one year. Extension of stay may be possible in increments of up to one year in order to continue or complete the event, activity or performance. 
  • Q Visa for Cultural Exchange:
There are two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons who want to participate in Exchange Visitor programs in the United States. The J nonimmigrant visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State. The Q nonimmigrant visa is for international cultural exchange programs designed by the USCIS. You may be eligible for a Q-1 nonimmigrant visa if you are seeking to participate in an international cultural exchange program. The Q nonimmigrant exchange program is for the purpose of providing practical training and employment, and to share the history, culture and traditions of your home country with the United States.

Only employers who administer cultural exchange programs are allowed to petition for Q nonimmigrants. The purpose of the Q nonimmigrant visa is to facilitate the sharing of international cultures. It is an employment oriented program, but an integral part of your duties must have a cultural element. You must be at least 18 years old and be able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of your country.

In addition to the procedural filing requirements, the employer must submit evidence that it maintains an established international cultural exchange program. This may be demonstrated by submitting copies of catalogs, brochures or other types of material which illustrate that the cultural component of the program is designed to give an overview of the cultural attributes of the participant's home country. The employer must also demonstrate additional qualifications and meet further requirements. 

The holder of the Q visa is permitted an initial stay of 15 months, and must depart within 30 days of the completion of the authorized period of stay. He or she must also remain outside of the United States for one full year before participating in this program again. 

The Q nonimmigrant visa does not have a provision for any spouse or children to accompany or follow to join a Q-1 nonimmigrant. Therefore, any spouse or children must qualify for a visa classification for which they may be eligible. 


The optimal visa option in your case may vary depending on your particular circumstances and situation. To determine the best course of action in your individual case, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation.