Ask an Immigration Lawyer: A Work Visa for a Musician

Immigration attorney Aggie R. Hoffman answers questions about immigrating to the United States from those submitted by our readers.

A friend of mine, undocumented immigrant, works in a Mariachi band. The leader of the group is offering him a full time job with them, but it implies traveling throughout the United States and sometimes going abroad for which he’ll need a visa. How to obtain a work visa for a musician?


Aggie R. HoffmanAnswer: Obtaining permission to work in the U.S. can be processed for either a temporary or permanent period.  Both require compliance with many conditions of multiple government agencies and/or professional guilds. While the requisite points must comply with similar criteria, the temporary (non-immigrant visa) basis is often quicker.  Whether the case will ultimately succeed depends on two major factors:

(1) the market and occupation in which the applicant seeks to work and

(2) his visa history.

The former is  subject to circumstances outside his control, while the latter is entirely within his control and that of his prospective employer.

The non-immigrant visa options for this case may include a Q (cultural)  or P (performer) visa. Significant information is needed about the job offer and the prospective employer to determine which would be a better fit.
For example:
(1) how large is the band?
(2) What is the schedule and venue of the performances?  What is the position in the band?
(3) How will he be paid and at what rate?
(4) Is the band a member of a union?
(5) At what type of events will the band perform?
(6) If performance is at large events, what is the box office gross or the reputation of the venue?
As for the visa applicant, the information needed includes:
(1) Place and dates of musical training;
(2) Dates of musical experience;
(3) prior earnings in the position;
(4) the level of prior performances must be determined, such as restaurants, churches, theaters, special events, recordings made or television appearances;
(5) when did he enter the U.S.?
(6) How long was he given permission to remain?
(7) Has he previously been in the the U.S.?    If so, when and for how long?
(8) Has he previously worked in the U.S.?
As you can see, this is a compex matter that needs the attention of a qualified immigration attorney.  It cannot be answered without a thorough analysis of the situation of the visa applicant and his employer.  It is important that both consult the lawyer, whether together or separately, before a decision can be made whether it is feasible to proceed and which visa category should be pursued. Under the right circumstances, the visa can be successfully processed.

CAVEAT: The above is not a complete legal analysis, does not constitute legal advice, nor should it be construed as such. For a case specific analysis, consult an experienced immigration attorney for a private and extensive review of the facts of your case.


  • Aggie R. Hoffman

    Aggie R. Hoffman is a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law, licensed by the State Bar of California and certified by the Bd.. of Legal Specialization. Ms. Hoffman has over 25 years of experience in a variety aspects of immigration law, from employment based (investors and PERM) to family immigration. Her victories include cases in Immigration Court, Board of Immigration Appeals, and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, focusing on reopening proceedings based on ineffective counsel. For more information, see .

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  1. Mi hija quiere ser abogada de inmigración; se graduó de UCLA, fue parte del Justice Corps y luego voluntaria en el mismo por 6 meses y ahora lleva 2 meses estudiando 6-8 horas al día a fin de pasar el LSAT con altas notas y sacar beca para Stanford o UCLA

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