Roger Algase, Attorney at Law, 35+ years Immigration Law Practice and Experience, Harvard Law School Degree

How to apply for O-1 B artist visa with confidence

The O-1B "Artist" visa is one of the most popular and sought after visas for skilled and professional workers. A successful O-1B application is an important career asset.

Unlike some other employment visas, there is no limit on the number of people who can apply for O-1B each year, and there is also no limit on the number of times that this visa can be extended. Also, unlike many other employment visas, an O-1B visa holder doesn't have to work for only one employer, but can work on a "freelance" basis for multiple O-1B employers at the same time.

The O-1B visa is also available for people in many different fields - painters, illustrators, photographers, fashion and graphic designers, musicians, performers and many others.

However, applying for O-1B can also be a challenge, since many O-1B immigration examiners interpret the rules very strictly; and negative and argumentative "Requests For Evidence" (RFE's) or denial decisions are all too frequent.

What, then, does it take to be successful with an O-1B visa application? How can one be confident that he or she is qualified for O-1B approval? To answer this, we need to look at the O-1B regulations. For almost all O-1B applicants, (other than the few who have won a major award such as Grammy or Emmy) there are six requirements, of which the applicant must meet at least three.

These requirements can be summed up as follows:

  1. The applicant has performed services in a lead capacity in events that have a distinguished reputation, and will continue to do so.
  2. There have been published articles about the applicant and his or her accomplishments in major newspapers or other publications.
  3. The applicant has performed or worked in a lead or critical role for organizations that have a distinguished reputation, and will continue to do so.
  4. The applicant has a record of major commercial success, as shown by box office receipts or ratings.
  5. The applicant has recommendation letters from recognized experts in his or her field.
  6. The applicant has received, or will receive, a high salary or other compensation compared to others in his or her field.

For many O-1B applicants, the requirements listed in items 1), 3) and 5) above are the most common ways of gaining O-1B approval. Quite a few applicants are also able to meet item number 2) - articles or interviews about them in major publications. Therefore most O-1B applicants will need to focus on these four requirements to determine if they are qualified for an O-1B visa.

The above regulations include a certain key words which are vague and not easy to define precisely, but can make a big difference in whether an O-1B application is approved. One of the most important is the word "distinguished." No matter how many recommendation letters an O-1B applicant may have, unless the O-1B examiner is convinced that the companies or organizations which the applicant has worked and will work for are "distinguished," the application may be denied. The same applies to the venues where the applicant's work has been shown.

Some examiners seem to think that "distinguished" means "world-famous" and that anything less than that doesn't qualify. But in reality, "distinguished" only means "excellent" or "outstanding", a much easier standard to meet. An experienced O-1B lawyer can make sure that the USCIS examiner understands this.

The same is true of the requirement that articles about the applicant and his or her work must have appeared in "major" newspapers or publications. What does "major" mean? Recently one of my O-1B clients had an interview about her work published in a newspaper listed in the Guinness Book as having the largest circulation in the world! Her O-1B case was approved. But this is not required in order to show that a publication is "major". Any well known publication - print or online - should be sufficient. It is also important to provide circulation figures for the publication.

These are only two examples of how important communication skills and thorough understanding of the regulations are to O-1B success. This is why having the assistance of an experienced lawyer with expert analytical and writing skills is so important for O-1B approval.