Music Festivals, Artist Visas, Immigration Attorneys, Oh My!

It’s that time again, summer! Which means outdoor music concert series and festivals are in full swing across the country.

Music festivals like Bonnaroo, CMA, the Newport Jazz Festival and outdoor concert series here in NYC like Celebrate Brooklyn and SummerStage are all on our radar to name a few.

For a concert goer, festivals and concert series are a great way to see a diverse range of styles and talent. For an international musician, it can be great exposure and an introduction to a new audience in the United States. However, before an international artist can even take the stage, there are a few steps towards securing an artist visa to work and tour in the US.

This can be an overwhelming process but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few tips to help an international musician navigate and stay sane in the process. 

To start, there are essentially 3 different types of artist visas that apply to musicians they are:

  • O-1B visa - applies to individual artists

  • O-2 visa - applies to artists supporting an individual musician 

  • P1-B visa - applies to a member of a group or band

Generally, an O visa is designated for individuals and the P visa is designated for groups. As you might have guessed, there are different qualifiers that must be met for each. For example, a lead singer or solo artist might apply for an O-1B while his/her backup vocalist might apply for a O-2 visa as this member will come to assist the principal O-1 holder.

Or in the case of a band where all members are performing together, they would each apply for a P1-B visa and must be able to demonstrate that 75% of the band members have been together for the past year before the visa application.

The main point to remember, both visas (individual or group) require the same artist visa ingredients with a few specifications:

  • Have a petitioner or sponsor in the United States.

Generally this means showing at the very least proof of the invitation or letter of acceptance from the festival and/or organization (i.e. Bonaroo or SXSW, etc).

  • Or...demonstrate multiple engagements.

This means showing proof of a tour or steady gigs for up to three years maximum, with no minimum.

  • Demonstrate success and prominence in the field and/or your music genre. 

If you’re an international musician just embarking on this process, start building your press kit and detailed resume/CV as soon as possible, this will help in expediting the process. Note your press kit should include bios of all band members or individual musicians, accomplishments, media attention, accolades or awards, and other supporting materials.

  • Choose an immigration attorney to guide you through the immigration process and provide counsel for your specific needs and goals.

Note “visa service” companies and immigration lawyers are not the same. Immigration attorneys are versed in the intricacies of the law and processes. Some other types of visa service companies are not held to the same liability requirements as attorneys. So be informed and aware when selecting your legal counsel, information is power!

Key takeaway: If you want to be on next year’s lineup and tour for the summer music festivals, start your paperwork early! At least four to six months before the scheduled performance date is a good rule of thumb but as they say, “early bird gets the worm”.

If you have more questions or would like to reach out to the Lehach Filippa team for a consultation drop us a note at We look forward to hearing from you.