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VISA for fashion models and artists

Under current immigration law, fashion models and professional artists typically enter the United States in one of two categories.  For those who are able to prove that they have risen to the top of their field, they may qualify for an O-1 visa.  The majority of fashion models, however, apply for the H-1B visa, which is available for models of distinguished merit and ability.   

H-1B3 Visa for Fashion Models

An important difference between the H-1B3 visa option and the O visa option is that the H-1B3 visa has a quota each year, so the timing of the filing of such a petition is critically important.   The H-1B3 category for fashion models requires that the distinguished merit and ability be demonstrated for the model.

In order to show “recognition” in the fashion industry, an applicant must show several significant fashion “tear-sheets.”  Frequently models will work in Europe or Asia to get fashion jobs which will qualify them for a U.S. visa.  An applicant will be required to have a sponsoring modeling agency in the U.S. which, in effect, holds the visa.  For this purpose, the modeling agency is considered the “employer.”

An H-1B3 petition for a fashion model should be filed with the following documentation:

  • Form I-129 should be filed by the U.S. employer
  • A certified labor condition application from the Department of Labor
  • Evidence establishing that the alien is nationally or internationally recognized in the field of fashion modeling
  • Evidence of national or international recognition such as newspaper clippings, trade journals, magazines or other published material
  • Evidence of work for employers with a distinguished reputation
  • Acclaim from critics, fashion houses, modeling agencies or other recognized experts in the field
  • Evidence of a high salary or other remuneration for services, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence
  • Documented involvement in events or productions which have a distinguished reputation

O Visa for Models

The O visa option for models is somewhat more complex than the H-1B3 process.  One of the advantages of the O visa, however, is that it can be filed throughout the year as there are no visa quotas as there are with H-1B3 visas.  The O visa for models actually involves the preparation of a petition under the O-1A visa category whereby it must be shown that the model has extraordinary ability.

In order to satisfy the O visa requirements, the model must evidence a list of upcoming projects or events, must have a petitioning company or agent (note that the term agent has a specific definition that should be discussed with an attorney), and must evidence his or her extraordinary ability.  Extraordinary ability can be shown by receipt of a major internationally recognized award.  .

Extraordinary ability may also be demonstrated with the following type of evidence:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards
  • Membership in organizations that require outstanding achievement (like World Model Assciation)
  • Published materials about the model
  • Reviews of the models ability from industry persons
  • That the model has been employed in an essential capacity at an organization with distinguished reputation
  • That the model has commanded, or will command, a salary above that which others in the industry receive

The options for models who wish to enter the U.S. or remain in the U.S. to take part in projects or shoots are limited to the H-1B3 and O-1 visa options. Both visa types allow a model to work in the United States.  

The H-1B3 and the O Visa option both allow for an initial admission period of three years after which extensions may be applied for if the necessary requirements are satisfied.  Furthermore, there are options to adjust status to that of a permanent resident green card holder in certain cases.  These issues should be discussed with your immigration attorney.

Please find co-operation law firms of WMA here.

Lawyers can order no-objection letters for professional models and artists here.





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