What it takes for an artist to come to the U.S.

It seems like artists spend more time filling out documents than performing.


The United States has always been a place for artists to express their talent. Musicians come from around the world in order to play at hundreds of venues. However, it is not easy for even major artists to make appearances.

I personally went to a concert where one of the opening performers was Tommy Cash, an Estonian rapper who made it a point to discuss how difficult it was to get a Visa.

“I didn’t even know if I was coming until two weeks before the tour started,” Cash said.

It made me wonder what the Visa process entailed for artists. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an 0-1 Visa is detailed for artists and high achievers. The details and requirements are listed on the website and tried to classify art objectively.

For example, “To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.”

While it remains clear that visiting must be temporary, how is one’s ‘extraordinary ability’ classified? What is the magic number of views, downloads, or amount of success needed in order to be eligible for this kind of Visa?

Visa issues have been the result of multiple major artists unable to attend events. For example, this year Chung Ha, an international Kpop icon was unable to attend KCON LA this year due to such issues. Fans excited for her performance were met with the unspecific explanation via Twitter the morning that she would not be attending the event.

The evidence needed for 0-1 Visas varies depending on what kind of art or achievement the individual is visiting for. The individual needs three kinds ranging from critical reviews to prove that one is starring in an art form, to salary documentation that exceeded others relative to one’s field.

Of course, the Visa system exists for valuable reason. However, the question remains what U.S. immigration considers worthy of receiving one and what extent artists are willing to go through for limited appearances.