Firstly I apologize for the radio silence. It appears this thing called normal life decided to include me in it lately. I now work full time. And while I’m happy to be among real people again instead of the fictional ones of the screenplays I write and that live in my head, it does take up some time! Forty hours a week to be precise. Which leaves me with 128 hours to do other stuff, minus 7 x 7 hours of sleep is 79 hours, of which I spent every evening of the weekday doing visa stuff. So that leaves the weekend of 48 hours.
And even the weekends have been eventful. I got cast in the pilot I auditioned for and had chemistry tests today! Fun! Then I did Halloween preparing, drinking, eating and more O1 visa stuff. And since I’ve gotten lots of questions about what exactly “O1 visa stuff” entails, I thought I’d break it down here…
So, the O1 visa is technically a non immigrant temporary work visa for “those who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education,business, or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.” The O-1B visa is the one for people in the film business. For actors and actresses that were not born in the Land of Dreams. For the Chris Hemsworths and Kate Winslets. The Christoph Waltzes and Carey Mulligans. So what do you need to be able to get this visa?
You need a US based agent, manager or production company to act as the “sponsor” or “petitioner” for your visa. They’re the ones who vouch to the government that they will employ you and there’s no O1 visa case without a them. While it sounds heavy, in reality it doesn’t comprise of much more than the sponsor answering a small questionnaire and signing you. It’s under 5 minutes work and bares little to no risk, yet this is probably the hardest part of all. Agents and managers have a lot of misconceptions and prejudice about the O1 visa, mostly just because of a lack of knowledge. And apparently once to twice because of a Canadian who violated the terms of his/her completely unrelated visa…
Unless you’re very at home in immigration law and USCIS policies and bureaucracies the second thing you need is a good immigration lawyer. There are many all over the world and most of them will only take on cases if they think they have a high chance of getting approved. It keeps the law offices’ success rate high and doesn’t waste anyone’s time or money. Because that’s the next thing you need.
An O1B visa including all lawyer fees, filing fees and union letters costs about $4000. On top of that you need money to live off the first few months in Los Angeles. I’ve written before on renting prices and the like in Lalaland in this post. You also need to realize that you can only work as an actor, so it’s very wise to have good savings in case you don’t book the part of Ryan Gosling’s lover right away.
There are a lot of documents that need to be collected to support your O1 visa, and you should probably expect to be dealing with collecting them at least two months. You need about five reference letters, all press of your productions collected neatly and translated, high resolution screenshots of your productions, a detailed resume, an itinerary of all the the time you want to get on your visa, deal memo’s, contracts etc etc etc. The specifics of what you need can be found on the USCIS website as well as many law firm’s websites. They are basically divided in five categories and to apply for a visa you need to be able to supply documents for at least three of them.
Conclusion: it’s a lot of work! But I hoped this made it a little less by clearing up some questions about the fuzzy maze that is visa procedures. If you have any questions left, know that Google is your friend and he also has more time and knowledge than I currently have. However, if he doesn’t help, don’t hesitate to ask me.
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