O Visa versus P Visa – Which one Is Right for You?

 In Entertainment Visas (O & P), Szew Law Group Blog

O visas versus P visas – Are you trying to decide which one? Do they seem very similar but you are not sure what the differences are?  Below we will walk you through the main differences between the two options.

Individual applicants versus Groups:

The O visa is only available to individual applicants, whereas the P visa is available for groups (entertainment shows, bands, athletic teams, etc.). The P visa allows for groups of entertainers and athletes to apply together on one application. Therefore, if you are coming to the United States to perform with a group that qualifies, you likely will use a P visa not an O visa. It is important to note that some groups do use O visas if there is one member that qualifies for an O visa, but the others do not. The one member who does qualify, would then obtain an O-1 visa, and the rest of the group would apply with them as their support personnel on O-2 visas. This can be beneficial to using a P visa for a group due to the different lengths the visas are issued (as explained further below).

Duration of the Visa:

O visas can be issued for up to 3 years, generally, whereas P visas are usually only allowed for up to 1 year. Therefore, an O visa is preferable over a P if you are wanting to work longer than one year in the United States without having to reapply. Note: P visas for individual athletes and their support personnel can be issued for up to 5 years. Extensions are available for both if you have work to support the need for the extension.


An O visa requires that the individual applying is extraordinary in their field. The P visa, on the other hand, has a lower standard to prove eligibility, and requires the group applicant prove that they are recognized and have an outstanding reputation internationally. Therefore, the P visa has a lower standard to prove to qualify for the visa (outstanding reputation) where the O requires that the applicant prove and evidence that they have “extraordinary ability”. Extraordinary ability is defined a bit different depending on what field you are in, but overall it requires the proof that you are part of a small percentage who have arisen to the very top of your field.

Change in applicants after approval:

A P visa allows a change in the people coming in using the approval notice even after the petition is approved. This is a HUGE benefit and a reason to use a P visa! For example, if Bob, John and Betty are part of an entertainment group, and Bob gets sick, therefore cannot come to the US, the group can then hire someone else (Jack) to take Bob’s place. Jack, the substituted individual, can then apply at the consulate to pick up the visa instead of Bob, even though his name is not on the approval notice. Note that this will not work if Bob already picked up his visa from the consulate. This is priceless for entertainment groups (especially ones with large groups of members) because you never know what could happen when preparing for a show! Also, note that for an entertainment group at least 75% of the group’s members must have been performing regularly with the group for at least one year in order to qualify (important to keep this in mind when substituting members).


The 3 main differences are critical when deciding which visa to pursue. Choosing the wrong one could cause a denial and/or delays in getting the visa required for the work to be done in the US. This is important especially in the world of entertainment (including sports) because dates for shows or competitions are set in stone way in advance, fans have purchased tickets, and there is little room to change direction once you have started a particular process.

If you have any additional questions about O or P visas, would like to start the process, or want to speak to Andrea directly regarding which one is best suited for your situation, contact our office at 310-477-0047 or online to schedule a consultation!

If you want further information about P visas or O visas check out more detailed information on our website. Also, check out Andrea’s blog and video, with Australia’s APRA AMCOS, How to Make it to America and Stay There where she answers artist and manager’s questions about different artist visas.


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