In general, professional artists, performers, and entertainers – also known as “members of the entertainment profession” – cannot travel to the United States on a B category visitor visa with the intent of “providing services.” Members of the entertainment profession include performing artists such as stage and movie actors, musicians, singers, and dancers, as well as support personnel such as make-up specialists, cameramen, lighting technicians, and electricians. “Providing services” means performing any activity associated with the entertainment member’s profession.
Members of the entertainment profession admitted to the United States on B visitor status may not perform or provide services, even as unpaid volunteers and regardless of the amount or source of compensation. Moreover, members of the entertainment profession admitted to the United States on B status may not perform or provide services, even if the services involve no public appearances, and even if the performance is for charity or for a U.S.-based non-profit organization or ethnic society.
Members of the entertainment profession must apply for a different category of U.S. visa in order to perform services in the United States – P-1 and P-3 visas are among the most common visa categories, but are not the only categories permitting U.S.-based performances.
Unlike B category visas, all entertainer category visas require that the member of the entertainment profession contact a U.S.-based agent or sponsor, and that the agent/sponsor file an I-129 Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker on the member’s behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Only after USCIS approves the I-129 petition may the member apply for a visa to provide entertainment services in the United States.
I-129 petitions can take several months for review and approval – as such, members of the entertainment profession planning to perform services in the United States must carefully plan ahead. Please keep in mind that any member of the entertainment profession earning money in the United States may be required to pay U.S. taxes.
There are three (3) exceptions under which members of the entertainment profession may provide services on B status:
Exception #1: Participants in Cultural Programs
A member of the entertainment profession may provide services in the United States on B-1 status if all three of the following conditions are satisfied:
- The individual is going to the United States exclusively to participate in a cultural program sponsored by the government of the sending country;
- The individual will perform before a non-paying audience; and
- All of the individual’s travel expenses, including per diem, will be paid by the sending government.
Exception #2: Participants in International Competitions
A member of the entertainment profession may provide services in the United States on B-1 status if going to participate exclusively in a competition for which there is no remuneration other than a prize (monetary or otherwise) and compensation of reasonable travel expenses.
Exception #3: Utilizing Recording Facilities
A member of the entertainment profession may utilize recording facilities on B-1 status provided that both of the following conditions are met:
- The recording will be distributed and sold only outside the United States; and
- No public performances will be given.
For additional information, please see the following pages:
Visa applicants are responsible for knowing and complying with U.S. visa and immigration laws. Failure to use a U.S. visa as required under law may result in visa revocation and/or future U.S. visa denials.
The U.S. Embassy reminds the public to be aware of illicit document vendors or “visa brokers” claiming to have license or affiliation with the U.S. government. Please report such individuals – as well as any visa or immigration fraud – to firstname.lastname@example.org.