O-1 and P-3 Visas: Options for Artists & Entertainers

Are you an exceptionally talented artist, performer, athlete, academic, or entertainer? Are you looking to continue your craft in the United States temporarily? If so, you might qualify for an O-1 or P-3 visa.

What is an O-1 Visa?

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is a short-term work visa for those who possess extraordinary skills in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or television industry. O visas are granted for a particular length of time, up to a maximum of three years, with unlimited extensions in one-year increments. A spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may accompany the O visa holder as long as they do not accept employment in the United States. The good news: there are no annual caps on the number of individuals receiving O visas.

O-1 Visa Qualification Criteria

A job offer from a U.S. employer is a basic requirement for the O visa. Alternatively, a U.S. agent may file an O-1 petition for a worker who is traditionally self-employed or uses agents to arrange short-term employment with multiple employers.  In either event, an O-1 applicant cannot self-petition. The applicant must also demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, or a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry, and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. O-1 visas are given only on the basis of a person’s individual qualifications. Being a member of a group or team will not, by itself, qualify someone for an O-1 visa.

What is “Extraordinary Ability” as it Pertains to O-1 Visas?

Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the applicant is at the very top of the field. This can be demonstrated if the applicant has received a major internationally recognized award, such as an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize, or has accomplished at least three specific criteria—see the full list of criteria here.

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. The applicant will need to supply documents showing that he or she has been nominated for or have received significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award. Alternatively, the employer filing the petition can submit at least three forms of documentation. See the full list of accepted documentation here.

What is a P-3 Visa?

A P-3 nonimmigrant visa is for those who wish to come to the United States temporarily to perform, teach, or coach as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique. P visas are granted for the length of time needed to complete a particular event, tour, or season, up to a maximum of one year, with extensions in one-year increments. A spouse and unmarried children under age 21 may receive P-4 visas to accompany the main P visa holder, but they may not accept employment in the United States.

P-3 Visa Qualification Criteria

A P-3 visa applicant must be coming to the United States either individually or as a group for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. 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.

In addition, the employer will have to submit statements from recognized experts showing the authenticity of the person or group’s skills regarding the unique or traditional art form, or evidence that the person or group’s art form is culturally unique, as shown by reviews in newspapers, journals, or other published materials.


For both O and P visa petitions a consultation letter from a U.S. peer group, labor organization, and/or management organization is generally required.  USCIS provides a non-exhaustive list of known organizations that have agreed to provide consultation letters. Click here for a link to the list.

I Think I Qualify for an O-1 or P-3 Visa, Now What?

If you think you qualify for an O or P Visa, it is recommended that you reach out to a trusted immigration lawyer to confirm your eligibility and begin the paperwork process. You will have to fill out forms, such as an I-129, and gather several supporting documents to prove that your abilities are extraordinary or culturally unique.

If you wish to submit an application, or if you have any other questions, please contact Attorney Jane Lee at 614-452-4915 or submit a brief message here.