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P Visa: Artists, Athletes, Entertainers

Broadway Theater Curtain; P Visa: Artists, Athletes, EntertainersThe P Visa may be a viable option for some artists, entertainers or athletes who do not meet eligibility criteria for the O-1 Visa. Generally, the P Visa requires a showing of international distinction unless the P Visa holder’s activities are “culturally unique.”

P Visas: Artists, Athletes and Entertainers

The P visa category is for individuals entering the US to perform in athletics, the arts or entertainment who do not meet the O-1 Visa standard, which for athletes is “sustained acclaim at the very top of their field,” and for artists, is either “distinction” or “extraordinary achievement.” The P Visa category contains three sub-categories: the P-1 Visa, the P-2 Visa and the P-3 Visa.

  1. A P-1 Visa is for athletes, artists or entertainers who are part of an athletic or entertainment group, with the exception of individuals coming to the US to join either a US-based or non-US-based entertainment group.
  2. A P-2 Visa is for individuals or groups entering the US to engage in an exchange program between US-based and foreign-based organizations. The P-2 Visa exchange requires artists or performers to be of equal caliber, to have similar skills, to be employed in similar conditions and for similar periods of time. A P-2 Visa exchange program must also involve similar numbers of people (although the regulations do not specifically prohibit individual for group exchanges).
  3. The P-3 Visa category is for artists and entertainers participating in a culturally unique program can enter the US either individually or as a group to develop, interpret, represent, coach or teach a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical or artistic performance or presentation, whether commercial or non-commercial.

Admission in P Visa status is for a limited time, such as for the duration of a specific competition, season, tournament, tour, exhibit, project, entertainment event or engagement. The P Visa validity period may include brief vacations, promotional appearances and related stopovers.

P Visa Consultation Requirement

As in the O-1 Visa category, consultation with an appropriate labor organization in the form of a written advisory opinion regarding the nature of the work to be performed by the P Visa holder as well as the candidate’s qualifications is required in all P Visa subcategories.

An appropriate labor organization is one with expertise in the P Visa holder’s field of expertise. Consultations are also required for support personnel. If such an organization does not exist, then USCIS may make a decision on the evidence submitted. Each of the P Visa sub-categories have slight variations in consultation requirements, with the P-2 requiring only that the advisory opinion confirm the existence of the exchange program involved.

Accompanying P Visa Support Personnel

The P Visa category allows for admission to a primary P Visa holder’s essential support personnel. The accompanying support personnel must demonstrate that they are highly skilled, an integral part of the P visa holder’s performance and essential to the success of the performance. They must demonstrate relevant qualifications to perform required support services, including creitical knowledge of the particular services required as well as experience in providing support to the P visa holder.


P-1 Visa: Athletes and Entertainers

P-1 Visa Entertainers

P-1 Visa candidates must be part of an entertainment group, except for individual entertainers coming to the US to join a US-based or foreign-based entertainment group.

  • The P-1 Visa candidate’s group must demonstrate sustained international recognition as outstanding in its area of specialty.
  • An individual P-1 Visa candidate must have a substantial relationship to the group. This requirement is generally satisfied by evidence that the P-1 Visa candidate has been with the group for at least one year. A waiver for this requirement available in exigent circumstances.
  • P-1 Visa personnel in circuses of national recognition need not meet the one year requirement.
  • The entertainment group itself must have been together for at least one year, and at least 75% of that group’s members must have been in the group for at least one year.

When a P-1 Visa petition is filed on behalf of an entertainment group, it must include details about each person’s length of membership in the group. It must also show the group’s sustained international recognition either, (1) by demonstrating nomination or receipt of awards for outstanding achievement in the field; or (2) by submitting evidence in one of the three following categories:

  • The group has and will continue to perform a starring role in productions or events with a distinguished reputation, as demonstrated by reviews, advertisements, press releases, contracts, or endorsements.
  • The group has international recognition, demonstrated by reviews in papers, trade journals, etc.
  • The group has and will continue to perform a starring role in productions or events with a distinguished reputation, demonstrated by articles in newspapers, trade journals, etc.
  • The group has had commercial success.
  • The group has gained significant recognition for achievements from leaders in the field. Or,
  • The group commands high remuneration compared to others similarly situated.

P-1 Athletes

An athletic team with international recognition may file a P-1 Visa petition for an individual athlete. Individual athletes who will compete in the US on an individual basis must show international recognition in their sport to qualify for the P-1 Visa.

“International recognition” in the P-1 Visa context means a “high level of achievement” demonstrated 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.” In addition, the event(s) in the US in which the athlete will participate must have a “distinguished reputation,” and it/they must require the participation of athletes and teams of international recognition.

A P-1 Visa petition filed on behalf of an athlete or team must meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Participation to a significant extent in a prior season with a major US sports league.
  • Participation on a national team at international events.
  • Participation to a significant extent in a prior season with a U.S. collegiate team.
  • Written statement from an official in the governing body of the sport outlining how the athlete or team is internationally recognized.
  • Written statement from a member of the sports media or other recognized expert outlining how the athlete or team is internationally recognized.
  • Evidence that the alien is highly ranked if the sport uses a ranking system. Or,
  • Evidence that the alien or team has received a significant award for performance.

P-2 Visa Reciprocal Exchange Programs

The P-2 Visa category is for individuals or groups who wish to the US for a reciprocal exchange program between US-based and foreign-based organizations in the P-2 Visa category. To qualify for the P-2 Visa, artists or performers must be of equal caliber, must have similar skills, must be employed in similar conditions and for similar periods of time, and must demonstrate that the exchange will involve similar numbers of people (although the P Visa regulations do not specifically prohibit individual for group exchanges).

Few P-2 Visa programs have been established thus far. A few examples include Actors Equity (in an exchange with the United Kingdom) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM, in an exchange with the Canadian organization).

A P-2 Visa petition must include:

  • Evidence that a US labor union or similar organization was involved in negotiating the P-2 Visa exchange. And,
  • Evidence that the foreign artists and entertainers in the US will be employed in conditions similar to those under which US artists and entertainers will be employed abroad.

P-3 Visa: Culturally Unique Programs

The P-3 Visa category is for artists and entertainers seeking entry to the US individually or as a group to participate in a “culturally unique program,” and “to develop, interpret, represent, coach or teach” a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical or artistic performance or presentation.

P-3 Visa petitions must include:

  • Affidavits, testimonials or letters from recognized experts attesting to the “cultural uniqueness” of the performance. Or,
  • Other documentation that the performance will be culturally unique, such as material published in newspapers and trade journals. And,
  • Evidence that each performance will be culturally unique.

Artists and Entertainers in Reciprocal Exchange Programs (P-2)

The P-2 Visa is reserved for artists and entertainers who wish to come to the US through an exchange program in which US based and a foreign-based organizations exchange artists and entertainers. The visas are available to both individuals and groups. There are few requirements for these exchange programs so long as the people involved are of equal caliber, will be employed in similar conditions and for similar periods of time, and there are similar numbers of people being exchanged.

P-2 Visa Requirements

A P-2 Visa requires the following evidence:

  • Evidence that a US labor union or similar organization was involved in negotiating the exchange. And,
  • Evidence that the foreign artists and entertainers in the US will be employed in conditions similar to those under which US artists and entertainers will be employed abroad.

Established P-2 Visa Exchange Programs

Some organizations that represent entertainers and artists may have programs promoting cultural exchange. For example, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has a P-2 program allowing for the exchange of American and Canadian musicians. Finding an established P-2 Visa Exchange Program may greatly facilitate a P-2 application.

P-3 Visas for Artists and Entertainers Participating in Culturally Unique Programs

P-3 visas are granted to artists and entertainers who come to the US to participate in a program that is “culturally unique.” The statute does not make clear whether the performance itself must be culturally unique, or whether the performance must also be given in a setting that is culturally unique. While USCIS initially took the position that the overall program must be culturally unique, it has since relaxed the standards to allow issuance of a P-3 visa in cases where the performance itself is culturally unique.

P-3 Visa Requirements

The P-3 Visa category requires the following:

  • Affidavits or letters from experts regarding the authentic cultural uniqueness of the performance. Or,
  • Other documentation that the performance is culturally unique, such as material published in newspapers and trade journals. And,
  • Evidence that each performance will be culturally unique.

P-2 Visa and P-3 Visa Support Personnel

P-2 Visa and P-3 Visa holders may bring support personnel if they are highly skilled individuals coming to the US temporarily as an essential and integral part of the competition or performance of a principal P-2 or P-3 Visa holder, or because
they perform support services that are essential to the successful performance or services of the principal P-2 or P-3 Visa holder.  P Visa support staff must have prior experience or critical skills with the P-2 or P-3 Visa holder, and the petition for support personnel must be filed along with the principal P-2 or P-3 Visa petition.