Too Fast and Furious To Get A Visa!

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.   

Dear Law and Disorder:

We filed a P-1 petition for an orchestra that is to perform at our venue. The petition was approved and it includes the orchestra’s conductor. However, the conductor just informed us that he does not want to go the consulate and apply for his P-1 visa (he says he just doesn’t have time for such an inconvenience.). Instead, he wants to enter as a visitor on the ESTA/Visa Waiver Program. He claims he did this when the orchestra toured the United States last year, including performing at our venue, and there was no problem, so he wants to do it again. We never realized he performed for us last year as a visitor. Are we in trouble? What if he insists on doing this again this season? What are the risks for us and for him?

Unless this is the conductor of the Hogwarts Symphony Orchestra, he seems to be laboring under the misbelief that he can waive his magic baton and dismiss anything he finds unpleasant, inconvenient, or displeasing. If only that were true.

Your situation presents several problems, the first and most immediate being that, under U.S. Immigration Law (however, inane we may all agree it is), an artist is not allowed to perform in the U.S. while on a visitor visa. Regardless of whether or not tickets are sold and regardless of whether or not the artist is paid in the U.S. or abroad (or even if the artist performs for free), no performance activities are permitted while an artist is in visitor status. Unless an artist has been admitted on an O or P visa, or has been admitted in some other applicable work authorized classification, any performances are illegal.

Technically, as the presenter/venue, you are supposed to verify the work authorization of each artist who performs for you. Had the conductor presented his visa (or lack thereof) to you last season, it would have quickly been discovered that he was not authorized to perform.  On the slim chance you were ever audited for immigration compliance, your venue could be found to have violated U.S. Immigration law by facilitating the illegal performance of a non-U.S. artist without proper work authorization. Penalties could range from fines to the greater scrutiny of future visa petitions.

I understand that, in this case, the conductor in question was able to enter the U.S on the ESTA program, perform, and leave without issue. He was lucky….and so were you. While I can see the temptation to try the same deception again, especially for a busy conductor who does not want to make a trip to a U.S. Consulate, such luck cannot continue indefinitely.

While U.S. Consular Officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers are as vigilant as possible, they cannot catch every violator on every occasion. The situation is much like running a red light, or committing any other criminal or penal violation, without getting caught. The lack of an arrest does not make the crime any less illegal. In this case, however, the penalties for an immigration violation can be more severe than a mere traffic ticket.

For an artist, presenting oneself at the border and asking for admission as a visitor, when the artist, in fact, intends to perform illegally constitutes a fraudulent misrepresentation to a federal law enforcement officer and constitutes a felony. If caught, the artist can be subject to immediate deportation as well as restrictions on future travel, visas, and work authorization. While I am familiar with many Non-U.S. artists who have managed to sneak in and out and perform as visitors on various occasions, I am also familiar with many who have been caught, even after years of being undetected.

In one case in particular, an internationally known artist who had held multiple O-1 visas over the course of his career, found himself with an approved O-1 petition, but unable to find the time to travel to a U.S. Consulate for an interview and to receive a physical O-1 visa. Instead, he entered as a visitor. Much to the dismay of him and his management, he was discovered. Because of his notoriety and international standing, he was not deported. However, because of his attempted fraudulent entry, his visitor privileges were revoked and for the next six years he was required to seek a “waiver of inadmissibility” every time he went to a U.S. Consulate to apply for a visa. Such a waiver adds an extra 2 – 3 weeks of processing time to the issuance of a visa.

I am also familiar with a management company whose future immigration petitions have been consistently flagged for extra review and processing when it was discovered that there were knowingly assisting artists in filing deception P-1 petitions.

As you can see, I would strongly advise the conductor that the immediate temptation of avoiding the time and hassle of a trip to the consulate is outweighed by the potential loss of his ability to travel and work in the U.S. Ultimately, if he decides to continue running the red light on the assumption that he won’t get caught, you and your venue should not be required to go joy riding with him.


For additional information and resources on this and otherGG_logo_for-facebook legal and business issues for the performing arts, visit

To ask your own question, write to

All questions on any topic related to legal and business issues will be welcome. However, please post only general questions or hypotheticals. GG Arts Law reserves the right to alter, edit or, amend questions to focus on specific issues or to avoid names, circumstances, or any information that could be used to identify or embarrass a specific individual or organization. All questions will be posted anonymously.




The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with your specific circumstances, facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a nasty email, filing a lawsuit, or doing anything rash!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.