O1 Visa

The actor’s visa & everything you need to know to move to L.A.


Here is a little list of what you need when thinking about moving to L.A. as an actor. If you are from Europe or non-U.S. in order to work in the U.S. you need to obtain a visa. In the case of an actor it’s usually an O1 visa of extraordinary ability.

“Extraordinary ability” means that you are extraordinary in your talents and that you are going to file your case as being valuable to the U.S. market because of your talents as an actor.

What you need first, is a…

  1. Lawyer: Ask around, ask friends and people you meet. One of them might have a good immigration lawyer. Call them and set up a meeting (it should be free! don’t pay for any first meeting with a lawyer. It’s a waste of money if you don’t know if they will take you on anyways.)
  2. The documents for your visa: In order to apply for an O1 visa you need a lot of stuff. Here is a list of the main things you have to think about (your lawyers will walk you through this):
    1. A sponsor: This can be an agent, manager or production company that vouches for you that you gonna be a great asset to the American market. They don’t have to pay for anything (you will pay everything! yippieh!!) but they have to sign some documents. Some agents support O1 visa applications, others don’t. Don’t get discouraged. You’ll find one!
    2. Deal memos: You have to find production companies, artists, directors, producers etc. that really want to do some projects with you. The best is an amount of 3 different people/companies with 2-3 projects wanting to work with you.
    3. An itinerary: A schedule how the next 2-3 years will look like if you get the visa (it’s basically the deal memos listed as a schedule).
    4. Letters of reference: You need tons of reference letters preferably from people that are well known in the industry or have had some success. Your lawyers will help you out with some templates you can alter. Most of the times you will write the letter and then you’re contact will change it so it fits your personal connection. Keep in mind: You have to write about how this person met you, if you’ve already worked together and why you are extraordinarily talented. Don’t be humble! They have to be a bit over the top!
    5. Proof of your extraordinary talent
      1. Press releases: Everything you have in press that has been written about you or a project you were cast in.
      2. You in a leading role: All the documents you have about the projects you were being a leading role in.
      3. Box office records: Sales etc.
      4. Awards: If you or your projects have won awards, nice job! Put every thing you have about it in your application!

If you receive your approval, you have to go to the embassy to getting officially approved. You need a U.S. standard pass photo, some coins for the photo machine, your passport and a kind smile on your face and the reason why you want to work in the U.S.

When you receive your passport with the visa stamp in it via mail you’re good to go. What you need now is…

  1. A lot of money saved up: around 10.000$ to survive
  2. Your passport with your visa stamp + all your visa documents ready to be shown at the U.S. airport if necessary
  3. A plane ticket to the U.S.
  4. A driver that picks you up from the airport
  5. A place to stay for the next few weeks until you find something permanent (I already found my place to stay before I got here. There are many facebook groups that post vacant rooms, still be careful and try to skype with those people before you sign anything – I wouldn’t sign anything before I got to L.A.)
  6. Some dollar bills in your pocket
  7. A visa card! You definitely need a visa card!

Note: I am not a legal advisor and everything I am writing about comes from my personal experience.


Categories: O1 Visa