K-pop has flourished in the US over the past few years. BTS sells out stadium tours in a matter of minutes. Artists like ATEEZ and Le Sserafim performed at Coachella this year, and Stray Kids attended the Met Gala this May (and they’re headlining Lollapalooza this year as well). So what do you do if you’re an Asian pop star ready to break into the US? Do you know what type of visa might be right for you?

This is where the US visa process comes in. Most K-pop performers would be able to come in under the P3 or O-1B visa. Let’s explore the differences and requirements for each.


P3 Visa: Culturally Unique Performers


A P3 visa is for artists or entertainers coming to the US to perform, teach, or coach as part of a program that is culturally unique. Asian pop is culturally unique in many ways. For instance, many artists use traditional Korean music or dance in their songs and choreography. G-Dragon has sampled the traditional folk song “Niliria” for a rap song, and Mino has sampled a trot song (a popular genre in South Korea in the 50s and 60s) in his track “Fiancée.” Former EXO band member and Mandopop star Lay frequently uses traditional Chinese instruments and elements of Chinese opera in his work. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” has racked up 5.1 billion views on YouTube to date and is so well known there’s even a statue dedicated to it in Seoul. BTS is considered culturally relevant even in their home country – in 2018, the band members received a Cultural Order of Merit from the government of South Korea for promoting Korean culture and music.

Criteria for the P3 Visa:

  1. Culturally Unique Program: The performance must be culturally unique, offering a distinct artistic tradition, custom, or heritage.
  2. Evidence of Uniqueness: Documentation or testimonials proving the cultural uniqueness of the performance.
  3. Performance Engagements: Evidence of scheduled performances in culturally unique programs.
  4. Expert Letters: Letters from recognized experts confirming the cultural uniqueness and significance of the artist’s work.

O-1B Visa: Extraordinary Ability in the Arts


The O-1B visa is for artists with extraordinary ability in the arts. This visa is suitable for those who have achieved significant acclaim and recognition in their field. For instance, being the first Korean pop artist at Coachella (rap queen CL performed there in 2022) or performing at a major event like boyband EXO, who sang and danced in front of a global audience of millions at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Accomplished songwriters like Jonghyun from Shinee, who had over 80 songs credited to him before his untimely passing in 2017, also qualify. Additionally, chart-toppers like BTS, whose song “Spring Day” has been on the Melon Top 100 chart (the Korean equivalent of Billboard) for seven years running, are prime candidates for the O-1B visa.

Criteria for the O-1B Visa: To qualify for an O-1B visa, the artist must demonstrate extraordinary ability by meeting at least three of the following six criteria:

  1. Lead or Starring Roles in Distinguished Productions or Events 
  2. Lead, Starring, or Critical Roles for Distinguished Organizations or Establishments
  3. Critical Reviews or Other Published Materials in Major Publications
  4. Major Commercial or Critically Acclaimed Success
  5. Significant Recognition from Experts in the Field 
  6. High Salary or Significant Renumeration 


Regardless of your approach, there’s a visa for you. Our experienced music attorneys can make that dream of breaking America come true. Contact us today to get started on your journey to stardom in the US!


Note: Always consult with an immigration attorney to understand the nuances and specifics related to your individual case.

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