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Artist Green Card Requirements

The EB1 Artist Green Card is a paper application. To determine that you are extraordinary the USCIS have developed a list of criteria and requirements for you to satisfy. It is our firm belief that artists that understand these requirements have a better chance of success.

The USCIS have devised these requirements to relate to all professions as this visa is not just for the arts but also for the sciences, education, business, and athletics – this can mean that not all criteria relate to your profession.

They judge your application using a two part analysis, the first – do you satisfy the base “criteria”, and the second – “final merits examination”. 

This is a long read! So we have it available as a download to read later (button at end of page).

Here are the Artist Green Card Requirements –

Either

  • provide evidence of a one-time achievement (i.e., Pulitzer, Oscar, Grammy)

Or 

  • Prove you meet at least 3 of these 10 criteria
    • Lesser Awards
    • Memberships in Associations
    • Published Material
    • Judge of Others
    • Original Contributions
    • Scholarly Articles
    • Artistic Exhibitions
    • Leading or Critical Roles
    • High Salary
    • Commercial Success
    • ALL EXPLAINED BELOW!

AND

  • Show you have sustained national OR international acclaim.
  • Show that you are coming to the US to continuing to work in the area of your artistic expertise. 
  • Your entry into the United States will substantially benefit prospectively the United States.

It is important to understand that the USCIS officers never look at the quality of your work as a critic but rather through the eyes of your peers and critics that you present in your case. It would save a lot of paper if you could send them links to your artist portfolio online and they be so wowed they approve you that second but no such luck.

NOTE: This is not a time to be shy.

The USCIS prove your eligibility as extraordinary in two parts, the first satisfying the base “criteria”, and the second “final merits examination” wherein your career and art are reviewed from an overall perspective to see if you are the kind of artist they want in the USA.

The application was shaped by Kazarian who was denied and brought the USCIS to court Kazarian v. USCIS, 596 F.3d 1115 (9 Cir. 2010) The USCIS uses this Kazarian’s two-step test to: (1) Determine whether the petitioner has submitted evidence that meets the one major prize or three criteria; and (2) Determine whether the evidence submitted is sufficient to demonstrate that the beneficiary or self-petitioner meets the required high level of expertise for the extraordinary ability preference category during a final merits determination.

This assessment is made by examining your body of work as a whole, as well as the prospective work you will create in the United States.

Before we look at the individual qualifiers, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you among that small percentage of artists from your country who have risen to the top of your field nationally or internationally, garnering individual praise for your work?
  • Is your work extraordinary?
  • Have you created new and advancing work that is beyond that of ordinary artists in your country?
  • Do you have a specialist ability within your field that makes you exceptional?
  • Do you work in a niche area in which you are an expert?

If these questions seem overwhelming, you may not be ready. The US government do not give out the green card as a gateway to opportunity, you must prove to them that you are already established and thriving.

They want you to be an opportunity for the US.

If you are not yet at a high level in your career, then proving your application may be difficult and you may decide to concentrate on the O-1 Visa. However, it is very possible that you may be approved. We have found that the key to success is finding a way to present your work so as to check the boxes on the examiner’s form. Always keep in the back of your mind how success in the arts and business are subjective, and so approach your application as you would a legal argument. The USCIS developed these “criteria” to help them quantify extraordinary ability. You must shoehorn your achievements into these criteria to allow them to adjudicate you.

Let’s have a brief look at these criteria. They are comprehensively analyzed in our guide.

ONE-TIME AWARD

Have you won a major internationally recognized award? The awards necessary here are the top awards in each art form; an Oscar, Grammy, Tony, Pulitzer, Nobel Prize etc. If you have, then this accomplishment alone should be sufficient for you to qualify for the EB1 green card. If the award is obscure but very elite this may also be argued as a major award as long as you can show that it is internationally recognized.

If you haven’t received an award such as this, don’t panic, the USCIS require you to satisfy at least 3 of the 10 following criteria. In all cases you must give evidence of the achievement itself and corroborate that evidence with supporting documentation from external sources. Remember you only need to satisfy 3 of these criteria to qualify as an extraordinary ability artist as deemed by the USCIS requirements. However in our experience if you have evidence to satisfy 3 you will invariably satisfy five or six.

LESSER AWARDS

Documentation of your receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor. So you haven’t won an Oscar but perhaps you won an award in your home country or a festival award etc. Keep in mind local and national government contracts and grants can be considered as awards too.

MEMBERSHIPS

Documentation of your membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields. If you are a member of an elite association within your field you certainly qualify here. If you can argue that they are prestigious many residencies, organizations and academies count as long as you can prove that they have strict standards for membership. You can include any unions/guilds you may be a member of, however, they are usually seen as part of your occupation to be a member and so membership is not required to be outstanding. The same, too, for film academies such as BAFTA, being outstanding is not always a requirement.

PUBLISHED MATERIAL ABOUT YOU

Published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to your work in the field for which classification is sought. Publicity throughout your career is used by the USCIS not only to fulfill this criteria as a measure of your extraordinary ability but a great way to prove your sustained acclaim. You should also ensure include any radio/TV interviews you have given. If you are applying as someone in the entertainment industry and you don’t have publicity, we strongly recommend you focus on building this criteria, as it can be expected by the USCIS. Submit articles with the title, date, and author of the material.

JUDGE OF OTHERS

Evidence of your participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought. If you sat on an award/college jury or your union’s ‘New Member’ committee, worked as a script reader or festival programmer, whether paid or voluntary, competitive or for critical analysis, all may qualify. This is a fantastic way to prove your merit in your art form – it’s not everyone that is asked to judge their peers it is important that you can prove that your role as a judge is indicative you being one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field to have been asked to judge.

SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION/INNOVATION

Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field. The focus here is on significance. While most art and business can be considered an original contribution, the USCIS seeks evidence of its impact on your field. Have you developed a new approach which others now follow, found a new application for that has generated advancement for the field beyond your own career, pioneered a technique or had an influence on related fields? One artist that used our guide developed her countries school drama curriculum, others had set up studios and galleries that had repute.

SCHOLARLY ARTICLES

Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional or major trade publications or other major media. Articles should be listed in online scholar libraries or major trade publications specific to your field. Being published in major media rarely qualifies here as scholarly articles are considered to be those written for an audience of educated peers. The articles should be within your art field. The examiner will look to see if that have been cited by others.

ARTISTIC EXHIBITIONS OR SHOWCASES

Evidence of the display of your work in the field at artistic exhibitions or showcases. Has your art been exhibited, film screened at a prestigious artistic venue or showcase? This can include film festivals, famous galleries, etc. Cinema and television releases do not count here as they are considered to be commercial exhibitions. Although this criterion appears straightforward in its requirements it is biased toward artists that display work. Performers have more difficulty proving this criteria. Interpretation that this criterion is limited to the visual arts – this has been upheld by a federal district court (case Negro-Plumpe v. Okin, 2:07-CV-820-ECR-RJJ at *1, *7 (D. Nev. Sept. 8, 2008)). Do not be deterred you may still be able to argue this as a performing artist – we show you how in our guide.

LEADING/CRITICAL ROLE

Evidence that you have performed in a leading OR critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation. The equivalent criterion within the O-1 visa application allows for a leading role within a production – your position as director etc is critical to a film – however, for the EB-1, the focus is on your role within an organization. Have you sat the board of your union or any organizations? It is important to note the association’s “distinguished reputation”. This again is not so straight forward for actors. You may have performed a ‘role’ in a film or theater production but how was that influential within the organization or establishment. Also, it is important to note that there is a difference between the definition of ‘leading’ and ‘critical’, your role must be either or. We show you how to word this in our guide.

HIGH SALARY

Evidence that you have commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in the field. This section requires you do some digging through your governments salary statistics to compare your salary to others working in your field. Though not strictly specified, it is advised that you give evidence that your earnings are continually in the top 10% of your profession. Consider how much artists can earn in the USA – your salary might be impressive for your home country and on first look might pass this criteria, however it could lose you the ‘final merits determination’.

COMMERCIAL SUCCESS

Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales. Box office and sales receipts establishing the commercial success of your work. Be careful that you do not submit data that contradicts your claim – if your film takes €1m in box office but your budget is reported elsewhere as €1.2m, then the USCIS will deem the production a failure, so you would need to ensure you have included home entertainment or other revenue streams to prove an overall success.

Even though you must prove that you are coming to the US to continue to work in the area of your artistic expertise the USCIS don’t require you to have an offer of employment or labor certification. This visa is special in that it is self sponsored. You are coming to the US on your artistic merit. There was a case of a concert violinist who was denied her application as she submitted evidence of schools that wished to hire her as a tutor but no evidence of her performing. This is important to note for your application. This is why it is imperative that you demonstrate that you intend to continue working in the area of your extraordinary ability and that your work will substantially benefit prospectively the United States.

The USCIS having been satisfied that you have fulfilled at least 3 criteria will then make their final merits determination. They will take into account if your evidence shows that you have sustained national OR international acclaim, that your achievements have been recognized in your field of expertise, indicating that you are one of that small percentage who has risen to the very top of your field of endeavor and that that you are coming to the US to continuing to work in the area of your artistic expertise and so your entry into the United States will substantially benefit the United States in the future.

The officer when making with decision applies a preponderance of the evidence standard* when making this determination. *Preponderance of the evidence standard is used in a burden of proof analysis. Under the preponderance standard, the burden of proof is met when the party with the burden convinces the fact finder that there is a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true. In other words, your paper application should prove your arguments without a doubt. The officer considers the quality of your evidence eg. whether your judging responsibilities were internal or whether the scholarly articles are cited by others in the field.

Each of these criteria should be argued separately in your petition letter – see our Reasons for Rejection/Denials.

IF YOU CAN SATISFY 3 OF THESE CRITERIA, PAINT AN OVERALL POSITIVE IMAGE OF YOUR CAREER SHOWING SUSTAINED ACCLAIM + IF YOU CAN PROVE THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO CREATE WORK IN THE US THEN YOU ARE IDEALLY POSITIONED TO QUALIFY AS AN EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY PERSON.

Qualifying for the EB1-EA, while the criteria are similar to the O1- B, the level of scrutiny your evidence comes under is far more thorough. You must decide if you are ready. You can take non-committal consultations with attorneys to help you judge if your evidence will pass muster, and you may be told by those attorneys or a “visabot” that you are not yet ready to apply if this is the case you can use our guides as an actionable blueprints to develop your career and build your evidence in such a way as to strategically better qualify you for a future application.

IF YOU ARE NOT YET READY, YOU CAN GROW YOUR CAREER USING THE USCIS CRITERIA AS A BLUEPRINT. OUR GUIDES STUDY EACH SECTION GIVING YOU A BROAD UNDERSTANDING ON HOW YOU CAN TAILOR YOUR CAREER TO MATCH THEIR ‘EXTRAORDINARY’ EXPECTATIONS TO SUCCESS.

We met an older lady who had worked as a business woman in London for decades, she had taken early retirement and had recently graduated with a masters degree in acting. She had no performance experience, but she was determined to make the move to Los Angeles and follow her dreams. Surely she couldn’t very easily qualify for a visa that requires a career of sustained acclaim! Yet two years later, having focused all her efforts on finding and creating work that would satisfy the visa criteria, she arrived in Los Angeles with an O1-B visa and upon learning of the difficulties and restrictions O1 actors were facing, she continued her focused efforts and two years later again, using our strategy she self-filed her EB1-EA green card – and SHE GOT IT! So it IS all possible. How did she succeed? She worked strategically through our criteria deconstructions and shaped a career trajectory that checked the USCIS immigration examiners boxes. By concentrating on the roles, positions and organizations that would give her status among her industry peers she built a petition worthy of the extraordinary artist visa.

We built our visa guides so you can have the tools to do the same. We give you actionable steps on how to design your career, to gain the most from it and, how to generate the evidence you need to qualify as extraordinary ability. We share with you how to build a portfolio that demonstrates your career in the best way and with our extra supplements on press releases, marketing, and goal setting, we help you garner the all-important paper evidence of your extraordinary ability.

We demonstrate how you use the criteria and evidence to formulate your petition letter with two full letters written in different styles, how to compile your Index of Exhibits, and, of course, give you an understanding of the forms.

Your application is a legal argument and we feel artists are well suited to writing their own petition letters as sometimes it is difficult to fully convey the importance of what they do to an attorney. The arts are abstract and subjective, and can mean different things to different audiences, so it can be difficult to determine what will and will not qualify as extraordinary. However, the USCIS have a system. It’s rigorous and can be tiring, but as with all systems, there is a key – and once you have the key, you are empowered.

Our exploration of these criteria from the artist’s perspective is further analyzed in our guide.

Download this document to read offline.

So much info!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to apply under all 10 criteria?

No. You only need to satisfy 3 criteria, however, most end up satisfying and applying for 4 – 6. It is unwise to aim to satisfy all 10. Weaker criteria might detract from the overall application affecting the ‘final merits determination’ – we talk more on this in our guides. You need to make it easy for the examiner to approve you so keep your application succinct.

I’m in an industry that is not really covered by these criteria, what do I do?

If the criteria don’t immediately apply to you and your field or if you believe your situation to be unique you may submit comparable evidence to establish your eligibility. Firstly, you explain how the criteria don’t apply. When submitting comparable evidence, it is because the criterion as it stands does not apply to you. If you can submit some evidence to a criterion, then USCIS may deem that criterion applicable to you and so any comparable evidence will be inadmissible – you will then have failed to meet the requirements with your regular evidence. More in our Comparable Evidence section.

How in depth does your guides go into the requirements?

In Step One ‘Gathering Evidence’ we fully explore each ‘plain text’ requirement. We show the necessary evidence needed. In Step Two ‘Petition Letter’ we show various ways to phrase your achievements for each criterion along with 2 petition letters. Plus we provide Recommendation Letter examples to help you back up the claims. More here.

What forms do I need to fill?

The full process is here. Have a read. Download the forms and fill them out. It will help you see that it’s not a terrifying application at all.

Can I DIY this?

You certainly can. We did. Use our guide! This is a self sponsor application and we feel artists are well suited to writing their own petition letters as sometimes it is difficult to fully convey the importance of what they do to an attorney. It’s similar to applying for a grant. You got this.