Visa Options for Entertainers

We have vast experience representing foreign entertainers coming to perform in the States.  Our clients include the Coronas, Sir Bob Geldof & the Boomtown Rats, Clannad, James Vincent McMorrow, the Riptide Movement... to name but a few.  


We routinely assist these artists in getting visas to perform nationwide tours, play at major festivals such as SXSW, CMJ, record and promote albums, and engage in promotional performances.


In general, any professional entertainer coming to perform in the U.S. needs a visa.  We represent all types of musicians and entertainers from the traditional folk singer to the contemporary indie band. 


Please see below for some basic visa information for Solo Musicians, Bands, any other Entertainers. 

B-1/2 Visa or Visa Waiver Program


Amateur Bands, Musicians & Entertainers:  i.e. those who normally perform without renumeration e.g. school choir.


Can enter on a B-1/2 (visitor's visa) or the 90 day Visa Waiver Program if:

1. Performing in a charitable/social context and will not be paid (other than an allotment of expenses)


2. Performing as part of a talent show for which they will receive no payment (other than prize money).


Amatuer bands, musicians and entertainers can perform at an event where an attendance fee is charged as long as the fee is used to cover the cost of the event OR if any profit made goes to charity.


Professional Bands, Musicians/Entertainers: i.e. those who normally perform for payment.


Note: musicians are classified as "professional" even if they do not earn a living from the money they earn on gigs.


Professional bands, musicians and entertainers can enter on the B-1/2 visitors visa or the 90 day visa waiver program (ESTA) in very limited circumstances.


1. Participating in a cultural program sponsored by their home country + performing in front of a non-paying audience + all expenses will be paid by the home country's government; or

2. Participating in a competition/talent show for which there is no renumeration, other than prize money and expenses. 

Visits to the U.S. solely for promotional purpose (i.e. where no performance will be undertaken) may also be permitted under the B-1/2 visa or the Visa Waiver Program.  As this is a gray area of the law, we recommend that you contact us so that we may prepare documentation for you in the event the immigration officer questions you regarding the purpose of your trip. 
If you are an entertainer/musician/band, amateur or professional, and want to come to the U.S. for any other purpose other than the limited ones listed above, you will need a working visa. 

P-1 Visas

The P-1 visa (subcategory P-1B) is used by members of a foreign-based band or entertainment group that is internationally recognized or well-known.  This visa allows these artists to come to the U.S. to participate in performances for a U.S. employer or agent. 

To qualify for under this category, the entertainment group must meet a basic standard of international recognition.  We must be able to demonstrate a “high level of achievement in the field evident by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.”


To qualify for a P-1 visa, the entertainment group must have at least two members.  In addition, the regulations require seventy-five (75%) of the group to have been performing together for at least one year at the time the case is filed.


The type of entertainment group contemplated by a P-1B visa could include musicians, dancers, circus personnel, singers and most other types of performance groups.  

Please contact the McEntee Law Group for a consultation and assessment on whether your group qualifies for a P-1 visa. 

O-1 Visas

The O-1 visa is available to Solo Musicians/Performers. 


To qualify for an O-1 visa, the applicant must be able to establish that he/she is recognized in the field in which he/she has special talent or extraordinary ability. Examples of people who may qualify for an O-1 are as follows: musicians, playwrites, poets, comedians, singers, opera performers, and actors.


Artists and Entertainers (except TV or movie stars) who wish to qualify for an O-1 visa must show 3 of the following: 

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author's authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary's achievements
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

Please contact us for an assessment on whether, or not, you qualify for an O-1 visa.

Green Cards for Musicians & Entertainers

There are a variety of ways to obtain permanent residency status (green card) for musicians and entertainers. 


One of the most common ways is to pursue the EB-1 (extraordinary ability) green card category.  The requirements for this category are similar to that of the O-1 visa however, the standard is higher.  Approval of an O-1 petition, while it may be persuasive evidence, does not guarantee approval of an EB-1 green card. 


The McEntee Law group can advise you on any feasible green card options you may have.