This is where we post our Top Secret stuff. Not to be shared all over the Interwebs.
Work Visa Bonus
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.
To all internationals who want to work in the US. I found this amazing article and I wrote my thoughts and experiences I had during the visa process and my time in New York.
Here is my story how I came to New York:
I grew up in a small village in Germany. I always had the desire to move to another country, but didn’t know which one.
While I was studying classical singing, I began composing minimal music for violin and piano. In 2015, I decided to go to New York after finishing my studies, no matter what’s gonna happen.
In 2016 I was in my final studies. I had to prepare for a whole concert and I had to write a thesis. Besides my studies I was working in Luxembourg as a shop assistant and saving money for my trip to the uncertainty.
In December I went for three months to New York. There, I met the composer and music producer Mark with whom I recorded my original songs. We had a great working relationship and he offered me a sponsorship for the O1 visa (alien with extraordinary abilities / artist visa).
I had my first consultation with an immigration lawyer. He said, that I have zero chance to get the visa. My dream seemed far away and I didn’t know how to raise the legal fees of $6,000, as I already spent a lot of money in my trip to New York. I did a lot of researches about the visa and about different lawyers and finally found the right one who said, that I have good chances to get the visa.
So I went back to Germany, back to work and raised all that money in half a year for the visa application. A lot of patience was required and I dealed with fear of loss and anxiety. What if I loose the visa process? What am I going to do without a job and money? What if……?????
In March 2018, my visa got approved! A month before my birthday! This was the best gift ever! Since May 5th, I live in New York. I remember myself every day that it is a privilege to live here. This was the best decision I have ever made and joining this program!
Yes, there are unexpected challenges, people let you down but this doesn’t stop me of being positive and happy. I know that I can make it in this city. It’s a journey and it takes time to hit the plateau you want to be. And you will be surrounded by like-minded people with the same energy.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND DON‘T SHRINK YOURSELF WHEN IT SEEMS HOPELESS!
This is the attorney I hired. I highly recommend him. His name is David Camacho. He answers every question and he offers a free consultation.
This post is mostly for FIFers who are in The US and don’t know much about paperwork that will allow them to work.
So when I started this program I had a student visa and didn’t have any ability to work, but I was so sure that this is my path, so I decided to figure out what I can do with it.
There is a few ways to figure:
1. For students from big schools it is usually OTP, which is a one year of work in here, during which you can find some way to be sponsored or other ways.
2. O1 visa for extraordinary people, which is giving you 3 years of work here, BUT you are allowed to work only doing the thing that you’ve proved being extraordinary at, anything else is illegal!
For example you have proved that you are an extraordinary actor, that means you can work only as an actor, also you cannot apply for yourself, which means whoever is going to work with you, should give a contract to the person who sponsored your visa, kind of like your agent!
Also it is very hard to prove these days, the government is getting very strict about it, cause in Obama time he had a program which was all about bringing talent to the country, this program no longer exists, unfortunately!
3. In my case, as an actress, I applied for an extraordinary green card a few years ago, cause I was working around the world in theater and film. So once you apply for green card you also apply for employment authorization card, which allows you to work in the country while you are waiting on your decision, and you can work not only as an actor, but anything you want. First time it is for one year, then two years.
In the beginning while I didn’t have it yet, I was doing unpaid gigs to get connections and experience, so by the time I’ve got it, I had people waiting on me to be able to work with them and get paid!
Right now I switched my green card to marriage based, because since I am married with my husband, who I met on set btw 😜😂. For more than a year, my attorney suggested change base for my green card, because timeline is going to be faster with marriage other then employment.
So I would suggest for people who are in the similar situation to find a good attorney and have a consultation about what can work for you. In my case love worked the best!❤
P.S. At first you can just check USCIS website and see for yourself, cause I learned a lot myself. You will be just more confident of what is happening in your life!
So yesterday I didn’t make it to the call because I was on my oath ceremony. I’m officially an American Citizen!!! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
I’m so happy and I feel so honored to be an American citizen after 23 years living here. Janet suggested that I post how my process was to become a citizen.
1995-2002 – Student visa
2002-2004 – grad school on student visa
2004-2005 – OPT (optional practical training you are entitled for 1 year after graduating)
2006-2008 – moved to Mexico for work and figure out how to get a working visa in USA
2008-2009 – working visa with company 1
2010-2012 – lost the sponsorship so I decided to do an event planning company and self-sponsor my visa.
2013-2014 – I was illegal because I had no visa since my company was no longer operating and I had no idea what to do. I was miserable and desperate.
2014-2015 – I did a waxing salon business with my step brother so I can get an investors visa and it was rejected because according to the American consul at the embassy I was overqualified to be a salon manager and I didn’t have majority of shares. He said I had 2 weeks to leave the USA. I was destroyed. I had no money, no visa, no self-esteem and illegal!!
Following my passion was what allowed me to get a visa. I decided to become a full time photographer/art director. I started doing exhibits, being published and getting awards. A friend told me I should get an artist visa. I got an O1 visa which led me DIRECTLY to the permanent green card, and now I’m an American citizen.
I really summarized the whole process but there were more twists and turns, drama and chaos. There was a point I wanted to give up and leave the USA but something inside me kept me fighting for something I thought would never come. In the end, I’m very happy and it feels amazing to finally live the American dream.
So if you are an artist and find yourself in a situation like me, don’t give up. Anything is possible and if you want something you can really get it. Every individual is different, every set of skills is different, but there is always a way! It’s an investment, but it’s worth it!
In terms of costs, I don’t remember exactly everything because I paid so much money in so many years. But for the citizenship process which was the latest one, I paid $1,500.
This is a long post but I hope it inspires you if you are in a situation like I was.
At first, I received my O1 Visa for three years, then, at the end of those three years, I applied for an extension which was approved. When you apply for an extension you normally file for a new case, as you can have a different sponsor. I obtained my O1 Visa for Acting.
Journalism was something I chose to do at the end of my acting school in order to help get into film/theatre festivals for free and network with other artists. Those artists later came to see and review my “outstanding” acting work. At those festivals I also met artists from all over the world, including USA, that became longtime friends in the field and helped make my transition to the American market easier.
Before moving to London, I performed in some of the biggest theatres in Romania and for the National Television, which offered me the opportunity to work with well known (theatre) directors who later wrote recommendation letters that supported my case. I got a BFA in Acting at one of the most prestigious Acting Schools in Romania and an MFA in Acting in London. I did a Residency in Acting from GITIS, one of the oldest Institutes of Acting in Moscow, Russia – where I received a certificate in Meyerhold Biomechanics and did a residency in Acting at Shakespeare Globe. This helped prove my extraordinary skills/ abilities in my domain.
I also performed in some of the biggest cities in the world: Bucharest, London (with a world premiere of a show on West End); Edinburgh (Fringe Festival); Moscow, New York and LA.
Then I obtained about 10 recommendation letters from my mentors, tutors, directors and the Deans of the Acting Universities Bucharest/London.
I had articles and interviews written about me in some prestigious publications in my country, some of them written by various connections I made at festivals as a Journalist, and some by people who simply saw and liked my work. I provided the translation.
I was part of the ensemble of actors of a British Theatre Company that participated with a show in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the biggest International Theatre Festival in the World. Having your work showcased at Big Festivals is another requirement for the O1 Visa File. That was something I knew by doing my research in getting an O1 Visa. I was the only non British actor in the Company.
I was British Equity, and I also got a letter from the American Guild of Musical Artists. I wrote, produced and starred in my Web-series called Why Don’t You Google Me? (It’s not released yet, work-in-development), which helped me add more stuff to my O1 file, like a letter from SAG that invited me to join SAG and a letter from the Writers Guild of America, etc. The idea is that you need letters from Unions like SAG, Equity, etc to support your O1 Visa file.
I also participated in various Festivals as a Journalist, so I reviewed the work of various theatre companies, artists etc. Those articles also contributed to my O1 Visa File. (It’s in the section regarding one of the O1 Visa requirements: to review/judge other people’s work).
All the info here is meant to give you an idea about what documentation you’d need to support your case. However, every case is different/unique (mine was different!), everybody has his own artistic journey! I strongly encourage any person willing to apply for a working visa in the USA to have a first consultation with an expert in the domain (a lawyer). Most of the time, those first consultations are free of charge or cost little money (always ask before making an appointment!!) so I would recommend getting as many first consultations you can before choosing your lawyer.
The first meeting looks a bit like a job interview, the lawyer will evaluate your case and tell you at the end how he’s going to build your case. You need to have a Sponsor before going to this first meeting!! (Or not! But having a Sponsor for your O1 Visa is mandatory!!) In an actor’s case, the best sponsor is the talent agency that’s going-to represent you.
When I came to America almost five years ago, I had two showcases (one in LA and one in NY). At the end of which my Manager’s agency liked me and wanted to sign me. She became the sponsor of my O1 Visa, my mentor and best friend.
Now I’m a happy one-month old Green Card holder!
Now, I don’t want to disappoint those of you who’re now planning to get their O1 Visa, but keep in mind that (I wish I knew before, or maybe it’s better that I didn’t :)) there’s a lot of big entities in the entertainment industry, like ABC, NBC, etc, as well as most of the (Broadway)Theatre Companies which simply refuse to work with O1 visas. They even request in the Breakdown: Green Card or American citizen only!
Also, a O1 Visa has a restriction on the SSN, so you’re only able to use it in your domain!! A O1 Visa will not help you get a survival job (in sales, as a waiter, etc). I do have friends who work on set as Art Designers or in the Camera Department, etc, and their O1 Visa serve them for that purpose only. However, I did meet plenty of artists who use their SSN associated to their O1 Visa anyways, regardless of the restriction of their Visa or of the job they’re supposed to be performing according to their case. From my point of view it is risky, but it’s a matter of choice.
Helpful Articles Around the Internet
VisaPaq, a U.S.-based company created to help international artists and athletes wanting to work in America.
Camacho Bridges, the lawyer Luana used to get her visa
AGMA- American Guild of Musical Artists. Nana got a letter from them when applying for her O1 visa. She 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.
USCIS- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. You send your file to them, and they decide if you are suitable for the visa.