I have booked my ticket back to the Netherlands… for the holidays! You didn’t think I was going back after more than two years of insanity-, tears-, and fear-loaded work, did ya? Nope, life with the O1 visa in LA has been pretty good so far. As an impatient and overly ambitious person I’m never quite satisfied of course, but I’m working on my craft and career everyday, and as long as I can do that I’m happy. For the first time I feel like I am where I belong, with people who are like me. It’s the little things: audiences clapping after a movie, people smiling to each other on the street… And it’s all thanks to that little piece of paper called an O1 visa, and my awesome immigration lawyer Kate Raynor. So for all of you who are also thinking of moving here to act or write do anything else creative, here are five myths about the O1 visa…
1. You need to be Famous to Get an O1-Visa
It helps, but no. You just need to have done work, and that work needs to have had some press: reviews, articles, interviews, TV show mentions…everything counts. Don’t forget that your local paper and the internet also counts. What is enough press? There’s not really a golden standard. In the end it’s about the total package, and how that comes across. Most immigration lawyers offer free consultations where they check if you have enough material for a case, so that’s always a good idea.
2. You Can File the O1 Visa Yourself
Okay, so technically you can and if you’re a legal beagle or someone with a knack for US immigration policies (do such people even exist?) you might even succeed but I personally have never met someone who filed their O1 themselves. The entire petition amounts up to a +200 page document and it’s already a big hassle doing it with an immigration lawyer so I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like doing it without. So I guess you can file the O1 yourself, but filing it successfully is something else.
3. You Need Work Lined Up for Three Years
Not really. You do need to have some work lined up but immigration is aware that nothing in the creative industry is planned that far in advance, so what you need are work promises. Plans. Projects you intend to do, but that include the line “subject to change.” Also, you don’t necessarily need to get the O1 for three years. Most people want that, since it’s a costly process, but you can also just request an O1 for the time you intend to work in the US.
4. You have to Live in the US Once You Get an O1
Nope! I mean, I prefer sunny Los Angeles over rainy Holland most of the time, but you can actually live in your home country with an O1 and just fly back and forth. The O1 is a non-immigrant visa, meaning you are -legally speaking- an alien. It has nothing to do with interstellar travelling, that’s just what they call people who aren’t US immigrants. You do still have to pay your taxes in the US though, but that’s a whole other story I won’t bore you with.
5. You Can Work for Every Studio
This is a tricky thing. Who you can work for depends on your O1 sponsor. If your sponsor was an agent or manager, woohoo! You can work for any studio. If your sponsor was a studio though, you can only work for that studio. Wanna hear something awful? Lots of actors weren’t aware of that in the past, leading to them booking jobs and then not being able to actually do them due to visa issues. Because of that some major studios now don’t audition actors with an O1 anymore. Even if they have an O1 which does allow them to work for all studios. I literally saw it listed in an audition call from Showtime the other day: “no O1 actors.” It’s illegal discrimination but it’s definitely real. That’s why I’m already thinking of going for a GreenCard as soon as I can.
Hope this clears up some stuff for all you aspiring O1 creatives! It’s a lot of work, but so worth it!