The Model Immigrant: A Guide to O-1 Visas for Models

Professional models from all over the globe dream of traveling to the United States to make their mark in the lucrative fashion industry. A fashion model’s work in the U.S. can consist of walking prestigious runway shows, being an ambassador for a luxury brand, or participating in advertisements of campaigns.

Foreign models wishing to enter the U.S. to work must obtain a proper work visa. This guide will help you navigate the criteria required to obtain an O-1 visa. However, we advise consulting with an experienced immigration firm to determine eligibility and to complete the filing.

Insight on Coming to the U.S. to Work as a Fashion Model

It has’s been said that a number of undocumented foreign models come to the U.S. and walk popular runways without a work visa. However, that is not advisable under any circumstances as it may result in very serious immigration problems. That’s not the best approach.Exceptional, very successful,  foreign non-American fashion models typically enter the U.S. via an O-1 visa, a non-immigrant visa designed for individuals who have extraordinary abilities in the following industries:

  • Sciences

  • Arts

  • Education

  • Business

  • Athletics

The O-1 Visa Is Perfect for Fashion Models Who Want to Work in the U.S.

The O-1B visa, an extension of the O-1 visa, is available to people who have demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. Both Canadian Pop Star Justin Bieber and Australian Actor Hugh Jackman, for example, are in the U.S. on O-1B visas.

The O-1B visa for “individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement,” is an excellent vehicle through which top foreign models can also come to the U.S. to work.  In order to qualify for this visa, you have to prove that you have risen to the top of the modeling industry and have sustained national or international acclaim, supporting the argument that you are one of the best in your field.

Begin the Process of Applying for an O-1 Visa

To start the process, your prospective American employer is required to file Form I-129, a Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker, and submit it to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with extensive supporting evidence. This has to happen at least 45 days before you’re scheduled to start your new job. Prospective employers usually cover this fee, but they are not required to by law.

You’ll Need to Meet O-1 visa Eligibility Requirements

The application process for the O-1B requires several documents. Again, you can’t just say you’re a prominent, extremely successful fashion model in another country. You’ll need to prove your prominence with documents, pictures, videos, writings, and certifications, for example.

If you happen to be one of the select few models who have earned a major national or international award, this alone would qualify you for the O-1B visa. If, however, like the vast majority of models , you  have not achieved such an accolade. In the absence of an award, you can qualify for the O-1B visa by establishing three of the following six criteria:

  1. Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements

  2. Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications

  3. Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.

  4. A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications

  5. Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author's authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary's achievements

  6. A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

An experienced immigration attorney can help you review all requirements and assist you in preparing and filing the petition.

The Processing Time for an O-1 Visa is Relatively Short

All O-1 petitions must first be processed domestically by the USCIS. This process can be completed anywhere from two weeks (guaranteed by paying an optional Premium Processing Fee) 3 to 4 months with standard processing.


Once the USCIS issues an approval for an O-1 applicant who is already in the U.S., that applicant can begin work according to the terms of the visa. If, however, the applicant is outside the U.S. when the O-1 is approved, he or she must schedule and interview and obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.  Your attorney should prepare you thoroughly if you are filing at U.S. consulate. required documents, including your passport, Form 1-129, and more.

O-1 Visa Allows You to Work in the U.S. as a Fashion Model, Indefinitely

On an O-1 visa, you can stay and work in the U.S. initially for 3 years, which can easily be extended indefinitely, in increments, so long as you maintain eligibility.

You Can Bring Your Family, Dependents with You to the U.S.

Many people with families – spouses or children (under 21 years old), bring them to the U.S., via an O-3 visa.They must be able to prove that they are the spouse or child of the O-1 visa holder. Your family must also apply at a U.S. Embassy where you live.

About Path Law Group

Path Law Group is an immigration law firm specializing in US visa options for creatives and entrepreneurs. Our clientele includes award-winning entertainers, designers, models, and entrepreneurs in the creative fields. Our focus is on providing personalized immigration services tailored to our clients’ needs.

If you would like our help to determine your eligibility for an O-1B visa, please feel free to fill out our contact form.



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