Immigration for Performers: The P Visa


The P nonimmigrant visa category allows temporary admission of foreign athletes, music groups, circus troupes, and other entertainers who want to work in the US after receiving a job offer from a US employer. Although the performer generally goes home after their competition or concert series is over, P visas allow dual intent, meaning that the holder can come with the intention of eventually applying for permanent residency.


Below is an overview of the different visas in the P category.


P-1A for Athletes


P-1A visas are intended for internationally recognized athletes who want to participate in a specific competition or event, either individually or as part of a team. The visa is granted for the period of time needed to complete the game or event, with five years being the maximum, although the holder may apply for extensions of up to five years. The total stay cannot exceed 10 years.


P-1B for Entertainment Groups


Internationally-recognized music groups who want to perform in the US must receive P-1B visas. To qualify, they need to provide evidence that at least 75% of the group’s members have been performing together for at least one year. The one-year and internationally-recognized requirements are waived for circus personnel, who must be traveling to the US to join a nationally known circus.


Solo artists who traditionally perform with a backup band may be considered part of a group if at least 75% of the performing unit has been together for a year or more. If the artist does not perform with a group, they have to apply for an O visa instead.


P-1B visas are issued for the time needed to complete the concert series or performances, with a one-year cap in place unless the holder applies for an extension of up to one year.


P-2 for Exchange Program Entertainers and Artists


The P-2 visa category is for entertainers and artists who are coming temporarily to perform under an exchange program between a US organization, such as the American Federation of Musicians or Actors Equity, and its counterpart in another country. All foreign participants must have skills and abilities comparable to the US entertainers going abroad.


Like P-1B visas, the P-2 status is good for up to one year, although incremental extensions of no more than one year in total may be received if the entertainer needs additional time to fulfill their obligations.


P-3 for Culturally Unique Entertainers and Artists


Culturally unique entertainers and artists may be issued P-3 visas to come to the US to teach, interpret, or develop their art. Their form of artistic expression must be unique to their country, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or another group. Examples might include traditional African dance groups or Chinese ballet companies. P-3 visas are valid for up to one year unless the holder receives incremental extensions that do not exceed one year in total.


P-4 for Family Members


The spouses and unmarried children under 21 of P visa holders may obtain P-4 status and accompany their spouse and/or parent to the US. These dependents may not work while here, although they can attend school or a university.


Support Personnel


Essential support personnel for each P visa holder may enter the US under the same category as the athlete or entertainer. For a music group, such people might be personal assistants, lighting technicians, and camera operators. Their work must be essential to the success of the performer and must be of a type that cannot readily be performed by a US worker.


If you are a US booking agency or sports promoter wishing to obtain P visas for foreign-born athletes and artists, contact the Florida immigration attorneys at Jarbath Pena Law Group. We will help you petition for the appropriate category and file all necessary supporting documents, so that you can focus on setting your clients up for success when they arrive.

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