Tips for Choosing the Correct O-1 Visa Category for the Arts, Motion Picture, and Television Industries

By Oakhurst Legal Group

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The O-1 visa is typically the most appropriate visa for professionals in the entertainment industry, especially if they are not in a musical performance group. The O-1 visa is one of the nonimmigrant visas with the most flexibility for work authorizations and is uniquely nuanced to support the quickly changing needs of artists, motion picture professionals, television professionals, radio personnel, and more. Each O-1 visa is not the same, and it is important that each applicant choose the best category of O-1 visa to have the best chance of obtaining full approval because the eligibility requirements under each category are different.

Categories of O-1 visas

  • O-1A extraordinary ability visas – Appropriate for professionals who have risen to the top of their field of endeavor in athletics, business, education, the arts, and sciences
  • O-1B extraordinary ability visas for the arts – Appropriate for creative professionals who are not directly in the motion picture or television industries
  • O-1B extraordinary ability visas for motion pictures and television – Appropriate for professionals who work directly in the motion picture or television industries

The first step in choosing the correct O-1 visa category is defining which occupation the foreign national performs or provides services in. Part of determining this can be to look at data from NAICS and other labor classification systems and looking at companies that the foreign national has worked with in the past to determine their industry classification. Also, it is not uncommon for foreign nationals to fit into several categories, and in these cases, the best practice is to look at their accomplishments and recognitions and pick the category that has the most supporting evidence. It is also helpful to narrow the concentration of the industry field with distinctions such as the following:

  • Film actor vs theater actor vs commercial actor
  • Pop singer vs jazz artist vs opera singer vs studio background singer
  • Beverage manager vs sommelier vs custom designer
  • YouTube streamer vs reality TV star vs blogger vs social media influencer vs esports influencer
  • Stage manager vs makeup artist vs special effects designer vs camera operator

These distinctions can be very useful for separating an O-1 for the arts against an O-1B visa for motion pictures and television. If the foreign national does fit into a category of O-1B for the motion picture and film categories then it is important to obtain a consultation from an appropriate labor union and/or management organization. If the beneficiary is not working in the motion picture or television industries, it is important to communicate this in the contract or itinerary memo and in the support letter included with the O-1 visa petition. This is very important if the beneficiary will be working on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Tik Tok, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other nontraditional content distribution platforms.

Our O-1 immigration lawyers are available to help categorize your O-1 petition as part of the overall services we provide to our entertainment, education, business, and sports clients seeking extraordinary ability visas.