The 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
A P-2 Visa requires the following evidence:
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 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.
The P-3 Visa category requires the following:
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.