The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Visa Sponsorship

So you want to sponsor an employee for an artist visa, but you’re unsure of what to do, what is required of a sponsor and how to begin? We hear you! Similar to an individual artist, the visa process can seem overwhelming and uncertain, yet for an employer or the sponsor the process presents fewer hurdles and is fairly simple if you follow some general guidelines.

To help frame the process and empower artists and their sponsors with information, we’ve identified the most common questions and the rules that correspond. Here are the top 5 things you need to know regarding visa sponsorship responsibilities for employers.

1.  Sponsorship is meant to demonstrate proof of employment.

The artist visa (O-1) simply enables an individual with extraordinary ability to stay in the US for extended periods of time and allows a sponsor (or employer) to pay an artist as you would any other US citizen under the employer or agency relationship.

2.  Sponsorship by itself does not require a contract (at-will employment is still in effect).

The artist visa simply allows for an international employee to be paid and engaged in employment just as you would an American employee or artist. O-1 visa sponsorship does not require special exceptions to a new hire contract or special accommodations for an international hire. It also does not designate a sponsor in any way responsible for the personal actions of a hire while employed and/or represented by a sponsor company/employer.

3.  There are 3 main kinds of sponsor-artist relationships.

Employer as a sponsor

This is the traditional sponsorship route. It is certainly the most straightforward. Having an employer as a sponsor simply means that the artist is being offered a position (in a field specific to their ability) with a company that will be the only source of your pay in the US.

Agency as a sponsor

If you are a fine artist represented by a gallery or a fashion model or actor represented by a modeling or talent agency, most often you would select an agency as a sponsor. As such, the sponsoring agency must have “control and oversight” over the projects the artist takes on. This basically means that, aside from placing the artist in projects, that the artist is also not permitted to take on projects without the consent of the agency at the very least.

Agent (or individual) as a sponsor

Regulations allow the artist to be sponsored by an agent in lieu of employment. This would, in effect, allow the applicant to have multiple employers under the attention of their US agent (who would be the individual signing their USCIS forms). The agent is not the employer, but rather the representative of the applicant for immigration matters (i.e., they will receive mail from USCIS, etc.). The agent does not have to be a source of income or employment for the applicant, however, it is recommended that the agent be involved in the artist’s industry or chosen field of employment.

4.  Proof of sponsorship and paperwork required will vary and depend upon the type of relationship between artist and sponsor (employer, agency, agent).

Depending on the type of sponsorship, there will be different guidelines and acceptable forms of “proof” for each. Here are the forms of proof needed for each sponsorship type:

For employers: Typically an offer letter and/or signed agreement of long-term employment.

For agencies: Agency sponsors would only need to submit an itinerary listing the represented artist’s upcoming projects for the entire duration of the visa, as well as a contract demonstrating the terms as listed above.

For agents: An itinerary for the duration of the visa requested (similar to what is required in the context of an agency sponsor) as well as documentation from future employers that demonstrate the intent to hire or work with the artist seeking sponsorship. (Note, there is a robust amount of specifics needed when it comes to intent to hire i.e. addresses, dates of engagements, pay amount, etc.).

5.  Sponsorship is for employees not freelancers.

After reading this post, number five might seem like a no-brainer. In order to have a sponsor for an O-1 visa, an artist must demonstrate a long-term engagement or group of engagements and employment or commitment with an employer, agency or agent. Therefore, a sponsorship approach to the artist visa application does not apply to freelancers or those that prefer to work sporadically.   

If you think that you might want to pursue sponsorship for an international soon-to-be employee, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss the process and which sponsorship track might apply best to your business.