On Apr 03 2018 by Feige M. Grundman

EB-1 for Artists: A Creative’s Approach

By Feige M. Grundman and Alexander Magalli

Given its recently politicized, colloquial nickname of “the Einstein Visa,” attaining a green card through the EB-1 Extraordinary Ability classification might seem like an impossible dream for anybody working outside theoretical physics. Although the criteria for qualifying are tied to an uncommon level of ability, those abilities need not be in quantum relativity studies or particle physics. In fact, there’s a corner of the EB-1 program specifically aimed at providing a path for talented artists and performers. In this post we’ll dispel myths, reveal opportunities, and offer some strategies to set yourself up for success when applying for an EB-1 visa based on Extraordinary Ability in the arts. Because although it’s an honor to be nominated, the real goal is to take home the prize. Which brings us to one of the primary misconceptions about EB-1 immigration for artists and performers: that only winners of major industry awards stand a chance at securing this classification.

Though having an Oscar on the mantel certainly doesn’t hurt, receipt of a major international award is just one possible qualifying accomplishment. In fact, there are ten additional criteria used to evaluate eligibility for EB-1 Extraordinary Ability classification in the arts. Of foremost consideration are the criteria related to the expression and presentation of your ability as an artist. Specifically, these criteria ask for evidence of:

  • Original artistic contributions of major significance; and
  • Performance of a leading or critical role for distinguished organizations.

Either (or both) of these criteria can form the foundation of a successful petition. In our experience, there are a variety of ways to demonstrate the major significance of an artist’s work that also serve to satisfy one or several of the more quantitative criteria associated with the classification. The EB-1 practice team at Klasko Immigration takes an approach that leverages both your original work itself and the impact of your accomplishments to craft a petition that not only addresses the letter of the law, but also paints a persuasive picture of your merit as an artist—a subjective value that is difficult but necessary to define.

Below, we’ve outlined the factors we look for when evaluating an artist’s viability for EB-1 classification and provided some tips for long-term planning and preparation if you’re an artist or performer aiming to pursue this route to permanent residency.

Display of the individual’s work in exhibitions.
Presenting your work to an audience is a straightforward way to show that it has been deemed significant by a venue or production organization in your field. Participation in curated or juried exhibitions may meet this criterion. Make sure to save any playbills, advertisements, and promotional materials related to your work.

Published material about the individual in the media.
Evidence of the discussion of your work is one of the most effective ways to both satisfy a quantitative criterion and support the qualitative assertion that you are acclaimed in your field. The more attention received, the more intuitive it is to label your work as significant. Any published critical review can satisfy this criterion, as can interviews, feature articles, and other media coverage. It’s important to note that the published material need not necessarily mention you by name. If the troupe, exhibition, or company of which you are a part is discussed, that can be applied to satisfying this criterion, doubling as confirmation that you performed as a critical member of a distinguished organization. Try setting up a Google Alert to ensure you don’t miss any coverage of your work published online. Maintaining an active ‘scrapbook’ of your clippings is an excellent way of positioning yourself for success when the time comes to prepare an EB-1 petition.

Receipt of lesser nationally- or internationally-recognized prizes in the field.
Grammys, Tonys, and Oscars aren’t the only valid markers of achievement in the arts. Any distinction given by a governing body in your field potentially makes for strong evidence that your abilities are recognized as extraordinary. High placement in a skills-based competition that draws a national pool of competitors can also satisfy this criterion, but it’s important in either case that you thoroughly document your receipt of such honors and any official criteria by which they are judged.

Prior experience judging the work of others.
It’s an easy line to draw that, if you’ve been asked to assess the abilities of others, you must be recognized as having a certain expertise of your own. Showing that you’ve served on a jury or judging panel, perhaps in the context of an audition, exhibition, or competition, is one way to meet this criterion. Opportunities to serve in such a capacity need not be invited—you can proactively seek them out on your own. Regional qualifying rounds of national arts competitions, for example, frequently require the services of professionals in the field. Similarly, trade publications in your field may allot space for commentary pieces from working artists. Having such work published conveniently fulfills another regulatory criterion…

Authorship of articles in mainstream or trade publications.
Musings on a personal blog don’t quite meet the standard, but if you’ve ever written professionally about subjects in your field for a peer-reviewed or edited publication, such evidence bolsters the assertion that you’re considered an authoritative voice your field.

Membership in associations requiring outstanding achievement.
This criterion can be met in a variety of ways. For example, many disciplines in the arts have honors guilds to which you can apply for membership based on accomplishment. If you’re a performer, employment by a nationally-recognized symphony, dance company, or playhouse could be considered inclusion in an organization that requires prior distinction or demonstration of ability. Ultimately, any organization to which you have been granted membership based on your experience, achievements, or skills can be presented as both satisfying this criterion and confirming recognition of extraordinary ability.

Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts.
Ticket sales, royalty checks, chart standings—any documents showing that your work has been financially successful satisfy a valuable criterion while also supporting the significance of your work.

Getting an EB-1 in the arts is not an easy feat. But you don’t need a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to merit the classification. There’s no shortage of ways to show that you deserve a standing ovation.

Click here for a case study summary of a successful EB-1 arts petition prepared by our team.


The material contained in this article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation.  The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

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