How Canadians in Film and Television Can Legally Work in the U.S.A.

By: Attorney Hendrik Pretorius, 2008


Whatever your reasons may be for considering a move to the U.S.A., your extraordinary achievement in the film and/or television industry may prove to be your ticket to make that idea a reality. This opportunity comes to you in the form of an O-1 visa of which there are two types. The first type, the O-1A visa is applicable to those persons who have “extraordinary ability” in the fields of science, art, education, business, or athletics. The second category is the O-1B visa which specifically applies to those persons who have a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. For this article we will focus on a few of the major O-1B visa requirements. Although we will not directly be discussing the O-1A visa, many of the O-1B visa requirements are similar in nature.

So how does one prove that you have reached a demonstrated level of prominence in your field enough to qualify for an O-1B visa? Well, the regulations are structured in a manner that provides an applicant two opportunities to qualify. The first, an extremely limited opportunity, requires an applicant to have received recognition for his/her work via a major nationally or internationally recognized award such as an Academy award or an Emmy or its equivalent. The other, much more accessible opportunity to qualify for this visa, requires an applicant to satisfy at least three of six suggested criteria. Note that although the regulations state that only three of these six need be proven, a well prepared petition will touch on as many of these six as possible. So let’s briefly consider these six in turn:

The beneficiary of an O-1B visa petition must evidence, through a variety of possible evidentiary forms that he/she has:

1.   Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in a production or event that has a distinguished reputation;

2.   Received national or international recognition for achievements (note that this does not have to rise to the level of an Academy award to be persuasive);

3.   Performed or starred in a lead role for an organization that has a distinguished reputation;

4.   A record of commercial or critically acclaimed success as evidenced via standing in the field, ratings, reviews, or through others forms of evidence;

5.   Received recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, or other experts in the field via testimonials; and

6.   Commanded or will command a high salary for services in relation to others in the field.


Accordingly, it is clear that one of the keys to a successful O-1B visa petition is to show that your degree of skill and recognition is above that level ordinarily encountered in the field.


Hopefully this article was informative and served its intended purpose of providing some basic background information relating to one of the immigration options available to those in the film and television industry who wish to enter the U.S. to live and work. Please keep in mind that the above mentioned requirements are only a portion of what is required in the submission of a properly prepared O-1 visa petition.


Attorney Hendrik Pretorius is an immigration attorney with the Immigration Law Firm of Muston & Jack, P.C., with offices in Los Angeles and San Jose, California, U.S.A. Attorney Pretorius focuses on serving a broad range of immigration needs, including the preparation of employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visa petitions for those involved in the art, film, and television industries. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Hendrik via e-mail at or visit    


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