I got O1 visa approved!!
Hi everyone. Yesterday I officially got a letter from my lawyer and now I have O1 which is known as artist visa : ) I can be do paid jobs legally! I was expecting to wait for at least 4 months but it actually came in about a month.
Janet suggested me to share my experience, so I’ll write my story and some advice to international members here. It’s long. Ready? Lol
June 2016 – Started searching lawyers.
July – Had shows and I was busy.
August – Decided to hire American lawyer who has a nice assistant.
September – Went back to Japan to get recommendation letter from my teacher and a director.
October – Kept filing a bunch of papers and asking people to write me recommendation letters.
November – Was busy doing rehearsals and shows. Couldn’t do much.
December – Finished MY work. People never email you back in this holiday season. Lol
January 2017 – People finally reply and agreed to sign on the papers. Sent some file to AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) to get a recommendation letter from them. My OPT visa expired on the 21st.
February – Got the letter back from AGMA and finally filed everything and sent them to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service) around the 20th.
April – My lawyer let me know that I was approved. According to the official letter, my case was approved on March 30th.
So, it took me only about a month to get it since I applied. But I stated the process more than half a year before. I filed all my credits both from Japan and America. I started performing when I was 4 so I had so many things to file and so many papers to translate. I would say you can actually do everything in 3 months, but if you get shows and rehearsals during the process, it takes 6 months, like me.
HERE’S MY ADVICE TO PEOPLE WHO’RE PLANNING TO APPLY FOR O1 VISA:
Start saving money! It cost me $3,500 to hire the lawyer and about $500 for the fee to apply. (Another lawyer I met was $6,000. Crazy!)
Keep in touch with teachers and directors even though you stopped going to the class or finished the shows. Like Janet says in this program, it’s really important to keep connecting with people. I regret I didn’t do it. It took a long time to get a response from one teacher I asked to write me a letter.
If you do both theater and film, keep doing a lot of theater works. It’s much easier to get O1 with your theatrical credit. (You have to choose theater or film when you apply)
Keep all of the leaflets, newspaper, articles and photos of your shows. Especially media.
Meet some lawyers and compare. Each lawyer tells you different things.
So you need 2 kinds of letters to apply.
1. One is a letter of recommendation. I asked 7 people to write it for me. In the letter, it usually includes the recommender’s introduction (to show how great and famous your recommender is), how you and the recommender met and how he/she was impressed by you, and how much he/she is expecting your contribution to the showbiz in America in the future.
2. And another letter you need is work offer letters. It is really odd, but you need to prove that you have paid jobs for next 3 years, even though it doesn’t work like that for actors/performers. If you’re in a performance company or agency, it’s not hard. But if you’re freelance, like me, you need to ask your friends and teachers who have their own companies and ask them to sign on contract. I asked 3 people to give me a contract, about 1 year each. The good thing is, these contracts are not necessary to be real. So they don’t actually have to pay you like it is said in the paper.
It depends on lawyers, but many of them write those letters and contracts instead of your recommenders. They are expert of this kind of things and that’s what you pay for. So all I had to do was ask people to be my recommenders or employers and to agree to what the lawyer writes and to sign. If people would love to write by themselves for you, that’s great, but usually those kind of people are super busy. You don’t wanna waste their time too much ; )
AGMA- American Guild of Musical Artists. You need a letter from them I apply to O1. But I’m not sure about actors. I applied as a performer.
OPT- Optional Practical Training. It’s a kind of work permission limited for a year. You can get this after you finish your school program with F1 visa. (Trump is trying to end OPT system😕)
USCIS- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. You send your file to them, and they decide if you are suitable for the visa.
Ok, i think that’s all for now💨💨 I hope this helps international students here.