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U.S. Immigration Options for Fashion Models Working in the United States

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Models from all over the world come to U.S. cities like New York or Los Angeles for runway, print and many other types of modeling jobs. To do so, models usually enter via one of three types of visas: O-1 visa, H-1B visa or the EB-1 green card.

O-1A Visa

Models who possess “extraordinary ability” or who have been recognized nationally or internationally for his or her achievements may be eligible for an O-1A visa. Specifically, the model must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, and he/she must be entering the United States temporarily to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

Evidentiary Criteria

The model can provide evidence that he/she has received a major, internationally recognized award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
  • A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation

If the model cannot meet at least three of the aforementioned criteria, other comparable evidence can be substituted in order to establish the model’s eligibility.

Please click here for more information on the O-1 visa.

EB-1 Green Card

Some models may be eligible for EB-1 permanent residency if they can demonstrate that they possess an ability that is “extraordinary” through sustained national or international acclaim. The achievements must be recognized in his/her field through extensive documentation and no offer of employment is required.

Similar to the O-1 visa, the model must meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
  • Evidence of membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
  • Evidence of published material in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that the applicant have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that the applicant’s work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  • Evidence of performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
  • Evidence that the applicant commands a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
  • Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts

Please click here for more information on the EB-1 green card.

H-1B Visa

Fashion models can also work in the United States on an H-1B visa. While the H-1B visa usually requires the beneficiary to have a bachelor’s degree or higher, this requirement is waived for fashion models under an H-1B status. Instead, the model must be of “distinguished merit or ability.” In other words, the model must be prominent; nationally or internationally recognized; and has reached a high level of achievement in the field of fashion modeling. The H-1B visa is valid for three years (renewable for an additional three years) and requires the model’s employer to file a petition on his/her behalf. The employer must also pay the model the prevailing wage.

Please click here for more information on the H-1B visa for fashion models.