Can Social Media Influencers Come to the U.S. on an O Visa?

Although social media influencers can visit the U.S. under a tourism or business visa, they are prohibited from engaging in any paid work during their trip. These restrictions even extend to remote work performed for overseas companies or entities. If you are an influencer who wishes to collaborate with a U.S. brand for payment during a visit or take advantage of other business opportunities the U.S. has, it is vital to obtain the proper visa to avoid serious issues with immigration authorities.

O visas are non-immigrant visas that allow individuals in the upper echelon of their chosen field to temporarily come to the U.S. for work. These highly prestigious visas enable foreign nationals with extraordinary talents in the arts, media, sports, or other specified areas to pursue paid opportunities within their profession while they live in the States. Social media influencers who can satisfy the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) criteria may be able to petition for an O visa. 

However, the visa process can be complex, and immigration officials are still adjusting to the new metrics used to determine the impact and success of social media influencers. Careful preparation is required to provide strong evidence of your widespread recognition and valuable contributions as an influencer, which are necessary to obtain an O visa. It can be beneficial to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you explore your visa options and assist you with presenting a solid petition to immigration authorities.

How Do O-1A Visas and O-1B Visas Differ?

The main difference between an O-1A visa and an O-1B visa lies in the fields they cover. The O-1A visa is for individuals with “extraordinary abilities” in sciences, education, or athletics. In contrast, the O-1B visa focuses on arts and media fields, which can include social media and digital content creation. The O-1B visa is more suitable for influencers as it aligns more closely with their sphere of expertise and recognizes their unique accomplishments in the realm of social media.

What is the Eligibility and Application Process for an O-1B Visa?

The O-1B visa category is applicable to influencers who have demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. Influencers must showcase their exceptional ability through sustained national or international acclaim or a record of significant achievements. The criteria for eligibility may include having a substantial online following, high engagement rates, notable collaborations, awards, media recognition, and a robust online presence.

Influencers must have a job offer or a contract with a U.S.-based entity related to their field of extraordinary ability, which can be an agency, brand, or any other organization that can sponsor their visa. Additionally, the application process for an O-1B visa involves gathering strong proof of your social media acumen and achievements. The eligibility of an influencer’s visa application is based on the totality of the evidence they provide to support their claim of extraordinary ability within their field. The form this evidence takes will be highly individual but can include:

  • Screenshots of social media analytics and engagement rates
  • Records of collaborations with notable brands or companies
  • Receipt of awards or recognition by reputable entities
  • Media coverage
  • Contracts or other evidence that the individual has or will command a high salary for their activities

How Long Can I Stay in the US on an O-1B Visa?

The O-1B visa allows social media influencers to work in the United States for up to three years. USCIS determines the duration of stay for an O-1B visa based on the time needed for the applicant to accomplish their event or activity. You may also be able to extend your stay in the U.S. in increments of up to one year at a time. There are no restrictions on the number of times an O-1B visa for social media influencers can be renewed. This flexibility can allow you to continue working in the U.S. and building your reputation and projects over an extended period, as long as you meet the visa requirements and maintain your extraordinary ability status.

What Challenges Can Social Media Influencers Face During the O Visa Process?

One of the challenges in applying for an O visa as a social media influencer is presenting evidence that meets the strict USCIS criteria. Unfortunately, the regulations for the O visa were established before the rise of the internet and social media. Subsequently, the USCIS may interpret many criteria restrictively, which can complicate the visa process for influencers. It is crucial for the applicant or their attorney to explain the relevance of the evidence they’ve provided and how it applies to the regulatory criteria.

Another consideration is the employment arrangement once the individual arrives in the U.S. Traditional employment may not be optimal for an influencer. However, utilizing an agent who can secure working opportunities in the U.S. may be a good alternative. The O visa candidate must provide a detailed work itinerary as part of their application. This document should describe the projects they will be engaged in, their location, the time period, and anticipated compensation.

How Can an Experienced Immigration Attorney Assist You With the O Visa Process?

Social media is a rapidly growing field that can provide entrepreneurial influencers many opportunities for international career growth and expansion. Working in the U.S. with well-known brands could significantly increase your social engagement numbers and followers, but it is key to obtain proper documentation before embarking on your trip. A skilled immigration attorney from Sessoms Law Group can analyze your situation to determine which visa options are available to you and provide valuable guidance throughout the petition process. To learn more about O visas for social media influencers, contact our firm at 678-853-7402.