Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers one of your frequently asked questions: can a TikTok star or social media influencer apply for a U.S. Visa?
Keep on watching to find out more.
TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with many finding success by attracting the attention of thousands and even millions of the site’s visitors. This has led many successful social media personalities to ask: Is it possible to work in the United States as a social media influencer? What are the steps involved? What type of U.S. visa is right for me and what are the requirements?
The reality is that the U.S. immigration system is extremely outdated with most visa categories passed by statute in the early 1990’s. As a result, there is no designated visa classification for social media influencers per se. Luckily, the O-1B visa category for individuals of extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts, is flexible enough to apply to social media influencers who have received employment opportunities to collaborate with brands in the United States.
As more and more U.S. companies have come to rely on social media influencers to elevate their brand and market their products and services, immigration has come to recognize the importance of their contributions to the U.S. economy, and has increasingly allowed social media influencers to demonstrate their extraordinary ability by way of the O-1B visa.
The Most Common Visa for Social Media Influencers
Social media influencers who come to the United States on a tourist visa (known as the B1/B2 visa) that engage in activities that are strictly prohibited by the B1/B2 visa type, can face serious consequences if the information becomes known to immigration, such as potentially being barred from the United States and other major repercussions upon re-entry. For this reason, it is crucial for a social media influencer to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to help them navigate the visa process and find the right visa classification. Failure to do so can cause serious problems for an applicant later down the line.
There are currently two visa options available for social media influencers wishing to work with a U.S. company on a brand collaboration or similar type of agreement.
The first, is known as the O-1B visa classification which is specifically available to artists who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in their respective field. The second option is known as the EB-1A visa employment-based sponsorship (green card), which has similar requirements including demonstrating extraordinary ability through sustained national or international acclaim.
In this blog post and the accompanying video, we will discuss the O-1B visa for individuals of extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts. The O-1B visa allows an individual to work in the United States for up to 3 years at a time. Immigration will determine the time needed for the applicant to accomplish the event or activity in increments up to one year.
Additionally, O-1B visa applicants can continue to renew their visa as they continue to build their reputation and projects in the United States.
How Do Social Media Influencers Demonstrate Extraordinary Ability?
One way to demonstrate extraordinary ability as a social media influencer is by providing documentary evidence of the type of brand deals that are you involved in. The higher the prestige involved and the more well known the companies are the easier it is to prove that you are a social media influencer of extraordinary ability. However, even if the business deals involve smaller companies, social media influencers can still demonstrate extraordinary ability for instance where a high salary is involved. A large audience, great amount of visibility, and high number of followers can also help demonstrate extraordinary ability, as it relates to the amount of leverage and renumeration a social media influencer can command through their large following.
Yet another factor that can ensure an applicant’s success is to show why a social media influencer’s collaboration is essential to the expansion and growth of a particular brand in the United States. This can be proven by demonstrating that the influencer’s involvement would have a significant impact on the company’s financial growth and/or demand for their products or services. As an example, a company’s revenue prior to an influencer’s involvement can be compared to the revenue that the company gained after the influencer’s involvement, providing concrete metrics to help establish that the social media influencer maintains extraordinary ability.
These numbers and statistics are used to showcase the success of a social media influencer and to establish the criteria required for the O-1B visa classification.
What is the O-1B application process like?
To apply for the O-1B visa, you must have a job offer or an agent in the United States that will act as your sponsor. Agents can be an individual or a company that will represent you in the various projects and brand deals you will be involved in within the United States. In addition to the filing of the O-1B application, you must also provide supporting documentation which typically include deal memos, contracts, and proof that you will continue to be involved in projects and such opportunities throughout the duration of your stay – the 3 years you will seek O-1B visa status.
Some examples of supporting documentation you will need to provide with your application include:
*These are just some examples for illustration purposes. You must consult with an attorney to discuss in detail the types of documentation that should be provided based on your individual case.
- deal memos that show the work you will performing in the future (within the next 3 years)
- any documents that can show the nature of your collaboration with the brand you will be working with as an ambassador or as a lead influencer
- any documents that can show your success in the past whether this includes your amount of followers or likes/engagement with your audience, previous campaigns you have been a part of in your home country, any monetary success that resulted from past campaigns as a result of the engagement/revenue generated from each brand deal
- proof of high salary (pay statements) from the past (high salary should be relative to others in your field)
- a list of past clients/brands you have worked with, list of other social media influencers you have collaborated with, and reference letters from colleagues in your industry that can attest to your high profile or high net worth brand deals and collaborations
- evidence of any awards you have received from your work as a social media influencer
- evidence of any competitions, conferences, or ceremonies for which you have been recognized nationally or internationally
- articles or publications that have been published about your success in the field whether nationally or internationally (including your home country)
As immigration attorneys it is our job to demonstrate that you clearly meet the criteria of the O-1B visa classification. It is crucial in any O-1B application to meet the burden of proof and to convince USCIS that you are eligible for the O-1B visa classification based on your extraordinary achievement. As a whole, this is done by putting together a careful compilation of documentary evidence that showcases your past work as an influencer, and your continued work in the United States in projects and brand deals you will be involved in throughout your duration of stay.
Want to know how you can apply? Contact us. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- O-1B Visa Information
- EB-1 Visa Information
- Success Story: O-1B Visa for Social Media Influencers & Only Fans Models
- State Department Newsroom
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
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