Can you get an O-1 visa as an influencer or blogger? Queue lawyer answer… it depends! Keep reading to find out if you might qualify for an O-1 visa if you are a social media influencer or blogger. You may be more extraordinary than you think.
At McEntee Law, we have a lot of experience with the O-1 visa. In fact, our Managing Partner, Fiona, is a leading O-1 visa attorney and EB-1A green card attorney. She regularly presents on the O-1 visa, including leading panel discussions at our immigration lawyer bar association – AILA – conferences.
We also have a lot of experience working on O-1 visas for those in creative fields, including social media influencers and bloggers. We just shared the recent O-1 visa approval we got for an inspirational fitness influencer. You can see it here – and give us a follow on TikTok while you’re at it!
So… let’s start at the start… what is the O-1 visa?
The O-1 visa is for those with extraordinary ability. There are 2 broad types of O-1 visas: O-1A visa and O-1B visa.
The O-1A visa is for those with extraordinary ability in business, science, education, and athletics.
The O-1B visa is for those with extraordinary ability in the “arts” or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.
The great thing about the O-1 visa is that there is no set limit on the number of O-1 visas that can be issued each year. In pre-pandemic years, the number of O-1 visas issued was generally around 17,000 per year (includes both O-1A and O-1B visa).
What is the social media influencer O-1 visa or the blogger O-1 visa?
Social media influencers and bloggers would generally fall in the O-1B visa category, as opposed to the O-1A. This is because they are working in “the arts”, and are categorized in creative fields versus more focused business fields. Even though their success is based on being very business-savvy, we typically argue that these influencers and bloggers are more creative in terms of content creation, aesthesics of profile, etc.
The distinction between O-1A and O-1B is important because the standard is actually lower for the O-1B, and the criteria is different for both options, so you need to know which one applies to you. If you had your pick, you would likely lean towards the O-1B, assuming the evidence best supports the criteria for that option.
Who can get a social media influencer O-1 visa or the blogger O-1 visa?
Obviously not every person on social media would qualify for an O-1 visa. To get an O-1 visa, you need to show that you are extraordinary as an influencer or blogger.
And while there are no requirements in terms of number of followers needed, if you’re filing a case based on being an expert having an influence online, it would be important to be able to document that you do have a large online following.
The O-1 visa was created over 30 years ago, well before the advent of influencers, bloggers, social media, or even the internet as we know it today. The types of evidence available to us today, was not really contemplated by Congress when it created this option. However, the types of evidence available for social media influencers or bloggers can fit nicely within the O-1B criteria and for this reason, the O-1 visa can be a great option for social media influencers and bloggers.
What are the requirements for an influencer O-1 visa?
To qualify for an O-1 visa, you need to fill 3 buckets.
Bucket 1: You Have Extraordinary Ability in Your Field
Before we jump into how we prove this, we need to be clear and strategic on how we are defining your particular field of expertise. We think of this in and of itself as an art form, and an experienced O-1 immigration attorney like those at McEntee Law can help you figure this out.
Correctly identifying and narrowing the field is essential to winning an O-1 case. You don’t want to be as broad as “YouTuber,” as you risk being compared to MrBeast with over 128 million subscribers. Is there a way to narrow down your expertise? Are you a makeup blogger? A fitness influencer, as opposed to just an influencer? Let’s think about how we can niche you down, but note that we don’t want to make your field so narrow that there’s no one else in it.
Once we define your field of expertise, we need to show that you have extraordinary ability in that field.
To do that, we look to the O-1B criteria, and we aim to check 3 out of the 6 below:
1. Distinguished Organizations or Establishments
Performed and will perform a lead, starring, or critical role for distinguished organizations or establishments.
2. Distinguished Productions or Events
Performed and will perform a lead or starring role for distinguished productions or events.
National/international recognition for achievements – critical reviews, published materials in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.
- Note: press releases are not press, and not all press is created equal so we must be strategic about this
4. Expert Recognition
Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field.
5. Major Commercial or Critically Acclaimed Success
As shown by such indicators as title, rating, box office receipts, streaming statistics, etc.
6. High Salary or Other Substantial Remuneration
Compared to others in the field, and shown by contracts or other evidence.
We don’t have to check all 6 boxes, ideally we want to have 3 strong ones.
We’re going to flesh out each one of the above in subsequent blog posts but for now think about providing things like:
- Proof of Deals:
- Brand Ambassador/Content Creator
- Letter of Intent to hire from companies showing that they want to work with you in the future
- Documents showing commercial success, such as your social media engagement, following, monetization, views, and proving this is at the top of the field
- Press, ideally in national publications and yes, we can use press outside the U.S. too (we regularly just have this if clients are abroad)
- Evidence of payments, contracts etc. to show high renumeration
- Expert letters from brands you have worked for, your manager, critics, other social media influencers, and industry experts talking about you, your success, their experience working with you or stating what they know about you.
- We like to spend a lot of time advising clients on expert letters
Bucket 2: You Have a Petitioner Who Will File the Case on Your Behalf
Another great thing about the O-1 visa is that there is a lot of flexibility in terms of Petitioners/who can file the case for you. Stay tuned for further blog posts on this, but for now note that an agent can file the case for you, someone can file the case on behalf of your foreign employer/company, and you can also potentially set up a company in the U.S. and have that company be the Petitioner for your O-1 case.
Bucket 3: You Are Going to Continue to Work in Your Area of Extraordinary Ability
The type of evidence to support this could include:
- Employment contracts
- Contractor agreements
- Letter of intent to hire
- Itinerary of engagements
What are my next steps?
First, if you are an influencer or blogger and think the O-1 might work for you, please contact us for a consultation. You can book one directly online here. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-828-9544
O-1 visas are very complex, and we recommend that you work with an experienced O-1 visa attorney.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!