P-1B Members of “Internationally Recognized” Entertainment Groups
If you are part of an “internationally recognized” musical group, theatre troop, a group of comedians, magicians, jugglers, or similar group of performance artists or entertainers, then this visa would be for you, if your group has dreams of organizing a U.S. tour or schedule of performances. Note: performers performing individually are not eligible for this visa, and they should consider an O visa and/or other options if they wish to perform in the United States individually.
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For an entertainment group to be considered “internationally recognized,” they will have to have achieved a high level of achievement in their field of entertainment. What this means legally speaking, is that the group can prove that they have a “degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.” To prove this, it is the reputation of the group as a whole, and not any individual performer within the group, that is what is important in qualifying. This is a discretionary determination based on showing evidence that your group can satisfy certain factors, and generally USCIS is going to be looking to see that your group has received or been nominated for, a major international award(s) or prize(s) demonstrating outstanding achievement in your field of entertainment; or alternatively, that your group can satisfy at least three of the following evidentiary factors:
Your group has performed and will perform as a starring or leading entertainment group in production or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
Your group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in its field as evidenced by reviews in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines or other published material;
Your group has performed and will perform services as a leading or starring group for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
Your group has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as evidenced by indicators such as ratings, box office receipts, record, cassette or video sales, and other achievements as reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications;
Your group has received significant recognition for achievements from critics, organizations, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field;
Your group has commanded and will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services comparable to others similarly situated in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
If your entertainment group can prove that they are internationally recognized, then you likely will not have problems establishing the other P-1B visa eligibility requirements. You will also have to show when you apply that your group has been established and performing regularly for at least a year. This generally would not be a problem for an internationally recognized group, as it would likely take at least a year to satisfy the above standards for having attained international recognition. Slightly more problematic for some entertainment groups however, is the requirement that at least 75% of the members of your entertainment group must have had a “substantial and sustained relationship” with your entertainment group for at least a year. This can be problematic for large musical groups that have musicians coming and going constantly, for example. If this is going to be a problem for your group, it might be worth excluding some newer members from your U.S. performances, if they are going to interfere with your visa eligibility and if they are dispensable; or
alternatively, waiting until they have been with your group for at least a year to apply/start your U.S. performances. The last basic requirement that you will have to establish to be eligible for a P-1B visa is that you prove that you’re an “integral and essential part of the performance of the entertainment group.”
Note: There are exceptions to the “internationally recognized” requirement for members of circus groups (foreign national’s coming to be part of circuses in the U.S., need to only be joining a nationally acclaimed circus). Also for circus groups, the one year requirement is excused. Additionally, for some members of entertainment groups that can’t readily establish International Recognition, this requirement can sometimes be waived if they can establish that the group has been “recognized nationally as outstanding in its discipline for a sustained amount of time in consideration of special circumstances.”
How does the P-1B application process work?
Generally you will need a written consultation letter from an approved U.S. Labor Organization that certifies that “the nature of the work to be done or a statement proving that the group has been established and performing regularly for a period of at least one year (If no appropriate labor organization exists, this requirement is excused).” USCIS maintains a list of appropriate organizations that can serve this purpose, available here. In addition to this written consultation letter, somebody is going to have to submit a I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on your behalf (and each individual group member’s behalf). This can be submitted by a U.S. employer or alternatively by a U.S. “agent.” This agent can be an agent in the traditional sense like a U.S. manager of your entertainment group (can be hired just for the duration of your scheduled U.S. performances); or, it can be a non-traditional agent. A non-traditional agent could be the owner of one of the venues where you are contracted to perform (like a musical venue, for example), if you can get your other performance venues to agree to let the one venue act as your agent for all of your performances. We know that most foreign entertainment groups may have their own foreign agent, and won’t be interested in hiring a true “U.S. agent.” Luckily, there are various ways to address this issue of agency, and we at Zontlaw can be of assistance in satisfying this requirement. The last big thing you will need to have is some level of organization with regards to your U.S. plans, as USCIS will want to see an itinerary with your scheduled performances, with dates and locations, as part of your application.
So there you have it: the basic requirements to obtaining a P-1B visa as a member of an “internationally recognized” entertainment group. If you should be lucky enough to qualify, then you will generally be admitted into the United States for the length of time that you have events/performances scheduled; not to exceed one year. You will be eligible to apply for extensions however, in one year increments for the time necessary to complete your performances/events. You will generally be able to bring your “essential support” staff (personal) with you on P-1S visas to work, and your dependent family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can generally come in as P-4s. P-4s are not eligible to work while in the U.S., but can study.
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