Artists, Entertainers and Athletes
The O and P categories are available to certain outstanding scientists, educators, business persons, artists, entertainers, athletes, and others. The standard of achievement which must be met varies depending on the precise occupation and category.
- O-1 scientists (including doctors), educators, business persons, and athletes must demonstrate “a level of expertise indicating the person is one of a small percentage who has risen to the very top of his field of endeavor.” This is the highest possible standard, and is the same standard applied to EB-1 Green Card applications. This ability must be demonstrated by extensive documentation or receipt of a major international prize.
- O-1 artists and entertainers must meet a more relaxed standard. The standard for this category is “distinction.” This is further defined as “a high level of achievement…evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.” The term “arts” is defined very expansively, and includes the culinary arts (chefs), set designers, music coaches, and even animal trainers.
- O-1 artists and entertainers in the movie and TV industry must meet an intermediate standard. They must demonstrate a “very high” level of achievement.
- The O-2 category is available to persons assisting O-1 nonimmigrants in the arts, motion pictures, TV productions, and athletes, such as coaches and stage managers. O-2s must be an integral part of the performance or event, have critical skills not of a general nature, and must have a foreign residence they do not intend to abandon.
- The O-3 category is for dependents of O-1s and O-2s.
- P visas are generally used for group performers and athletic teams. Athletes may be accorded P-1 status based on their own internationally recognized ability, or based on membership on a team with an outstanding reputation. P-1 athletes must usually have a contract with a major U.S. sports team or league. The COMPETE Act of 2006 expanded this category to some minor league and international athletes and coaches, as well as some amateur and professional skaters. P-1 entertainers are admitted based on membership in an internationally recognized entertainment group.
- The P-2 category is reserved for artists and entertainers who perform as part of a reciprocal exchange program with another country. This is not a widely used category.
- The P-3 category is used for artists and entertainers coming to the United States to develop, interpret, represent, coach, or teach their culturally unique art or discipline.
Both O and P cases begin with an I-129 petition filed with a USCIS service center. Premium processing is available in urgent cases. Most petitions for O or P artists, entertainers, athletes and their accompanying personnel must be accompanied by consultations from a labor union in the same field. The labor union will offer an opinion whether the person meets the required standard, or may simply provide a “no objection letter.” The opinion must be considered by USCIS but is not binding. Once the petition is approved, O and P applicants must apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. consulate abroad. Canadians need an approved petition but do not require a visa stamp.
Os may be admitted for an initial period of three years, and one year extensions may be obtained without limitation. Individual P athletes may be admitted for five years, while other Ps may be admitted for the length of the “event,” up to one year. One five year extension is available to individual athletes, while other Ps may obtain extensions in one year increments.