Speaking from personal experience, applying for an artist visa to the United States can be a time-consuming, complicated, and costly process. New strict regulations imposed by the Trump administration in 2018 made the artist visa a lot harder to obtain. These cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles are hard to overcome, and they often overwhelm and dispirit international artists and writers who wish to work in this country and contribute to its cultural life.
Louise Carron, Executive Director of the Center for Art Law, told Hyperallergic in an email that the idea for the Clinic arose in 2018 when her organization noticed an increase in requests for assistance from artists seeking to immigrate to the United States.
“This event was timely and well-received, following a tightening of immigration policy, by way of Executive Orders issued by the 45th President,” she wrote. “We hope to demystify the O-1 and EB-1A visas in particular, because a lot of artists do not realize that they may be eligible for either one.”
The clinic will match artists working towards obtaining an artist visa (known legally as the “O-1 visa: individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement“) with specialized attorneys. Artists are encouraged to take the workshop 6-12 months before their application date (processing time for visa petitions has generally increased over the past two years). Finding a good lawyer is considered a key factor in obtaining the visa.
The O-1 visa is a three-year work permit for “nonimmigrants” (non-US citizens who are admitted to the country for a specific temporary period of time). Applicants for the visa are required to demonstrate “a high level of achievement” in their field, backed by a portfolio of accomplishments (awards and write-ups help a lot), numerous recommendation letters from peers, and a US-based sponsor.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which operates under the supervision of United States Department of Homeland Security, distinction in the arts is evidenced by “a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.” Applicants are also required to prove the ability to sustain a livelihood in the country by providing future work contracts for three years into the future.
The Visual Artists’ Immigration Clinic will be hosted by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), which runs an Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program. Interested artists will be charged a $10 participation fee.