Coachella, Summerfest, South by Southwest, and Lollapalooza are some of the most-shared music festivals in the world, and they’re all based in the United States. Each year, these festivals put together top-tier line-ups, and that usually means importing talent. Like any type of employment, international musicians being contracted to play festivals need a visa. Though everyone’s situation is different, we see most our clients go with the P-1B visa. Read on for an overview of the what, the why, and the how!


What is the P-1B?

P visas are a type of employment-based visa, meaning they are visas issued because you have U.S.-based work that is “more likely than not”. Versions of the P exist for athletes and their support personnel, performing groups, and culturally unique groups. The P-1B visa is meant for members of internationally recognized entertainment groups, like a band. You can request up to one year with this visa, as long as you have work.


What are the criteria?

There are 6 primary criteria for the P-1B visa. That sounds like a lot, but don’t worry! You only need to meet a minimum of 3. They are as follows:


  1. Your group has performed or will perform as a leading group for events with a distinguished reputation;


  1. The group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in its field as evidenced by press;


  1. The group has performed, and will perform, services as a leading or starring group for companies and venues that have a distinguished reputation;


  1. Your group has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, such as ratings; standing in the field; box office receipts; record, cassette, or video sales;


  1. The group has achieved significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field; or


  1. The group has or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services comparable to others similarly situated in the field.



These can be flexible, too. “International recognition”, for example, is often understood to mean “worldwide recognition”. It more so means “multi-national”. And, while it’s helpful, you don’t need to have been featured in American publications, either. Sure, you’re not in Rolling Stone, but a feature in Dazed or Mixdown Magazine is nothing to sneeze at!


There are other requirements, of course. 75% of your group’s members must have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least 1 year. Importantly, the P-1B visa cannot be self-petitioned, so you will need a petitioner. Record labels, management companies, or even the festival itself can be petitioner!


Before you can submit your case to USCIS, you have to submit it to one of the United States’ musicians’ unions. Our firm prepares a special case to submit to the American Federation of Musicians (or AFM) for all of our P-1B band clients, making this part of the application a breeze. The biggest hurdle is showing that you meet the international recognition criteria outlined above.


How do we get started?

The first thing any band needs for a strong P-1B petition is a great immigration attorney, and we’re not short on those! Our Partner Attorney, Ray McEntee, has a wide breadth of experience in preparing visas for musicians. If you and your band are trying to come to the United States to perform, whether for festival season or beyond, we recommend scheduling an initial 30-minute consultation with him HERE.


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