B1 Status: Artists and Entertainers

B1 Entertainer



The B1 nonimmigrant visa category allows for business visitors to travel to the United States to engage in limited business activities as specified in the regulations and in the Department of State's (DOS's) Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). In this article, we will explain the specific circumstances in which a B1 visa may be available for entertainers and artists.

Before reading this article, please see our general overview of the B1 category [see article]. You may also refer to our collection of articles on the B1 nonimmigrant category [see article]. This is the last in a series of articles on specific situations for which B1 status may be appropriate. The series of articles is as follows:

B1 Status: Employment Incidental to Business Activities [see article]
B1 Status: Personal Employees and Domestic Workers [see article]
B1 Status: Certain Other Business Activities Classifiable as B1 [see article]
B1 Status: Aliens Normally Classifiable as H1 or H3 [see article]

Overview: B1 Entertainers and Artists

9 FAM 402.2-5(G) outlines situations in which B visa status is appropriate for a “member of the entertainment profession.” In the vast majority of cases, the B1 nonimmigrant category is not appropriate for entertainers and artists. The FAM notes that the most common nonimmigrant visa category for entertainers and artists is the P nonimmigrant category [see article]. Additionally, the B2 visitor for pleasure category is available for a subset of amateur performances [see section]. We will examine the distinguishable B2 provision later in this article.

However, the B1 visitor for business category is available for specific purposes for entertainers and artists. We will examine these cases in the foregoing subsections. Please note that in all cases, the general limitations and requirements for the B1 nonimmigrant visa category apply.

9 FAM 402.2-5(G)(b) defines the term “member of the entertainment profession” as including not only performing artists, but also “other personnel such as technicians, electricians, make-up specialists, film crew members coming to the United States to produce films,” and other similar jobs.

1. Participants in Cultural Programs

9 FAM 402.2-5(G)(1) addresses when a B1 visa is appropriate for a professional entertainer participating in a cultural program. In order for a professional entertainer to procure a B1 visa to perform in the United States, he or she must be:

1. Coming to the United States to participate only in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country;
2. Performing before a non-paying audience; and
3. Have all expenses, including per diem, paid by the member's government.

The B1 category has limited applications for participating in cultural programs. Before applying, it is prudent to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for an opinion on whether the B1 category covers a specific case or if another nonimmigrant visa category would be necessary. For participants in cultural programs on B1 status, it is important to remember the rules prohibiting employment and accepting salary from U.S. sources while on B1 status.

2. Participants in International Competitions

Under 9 FAM 402.2-5(G)(2), a professional entertainer may enter the United States in B1 status in order to participate in a competition, provided that there is no remuneration other than a prize (monetary or otherwise) and coverage of expenses.

3. Still Photographers

9 FAM 402.2-5(G)(3) explains that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permits still photographers to enter the United States in B1 status under certain circumstances. A still photographer may enter for the purpose of taking photographs, provided that he or she will receive no income from a U.S. source.

4. Musicians

Under 9 FAM 402.2-5(G)(4), an alien musician may enter the United States in B1 status for limited purposes.

First, the alien musician must be coming to the United States in order to utilize recording facilities for recording purposes only. Second, the recording must then be distributed and sold only outside of the United States. Third, the alien musician will not be permitted to give public performances while in B1 status.

The B1 category is very limited for musicians. A musician who is seeking entry to engage in any activities beyond using recording facilities or who intends to sell the results of recording activities in the United States would have to use a different nonimmigrant visa category.

5. Artists

9 FAM 402.2-5(G)(5) allows for artists to obtain B1 visas in certain cases. Firstly, the artist must be coming to the United States to paint, sculpt, or engage in a similar type of artistic activity. Secondly, the artist must not be under contract with a U.S. employer. Finally, the artist must not intend to regularly sell his or her artwork in the United States.

Distinguishing from B2 Amateur Entertainers

As we referenced earlier in the article, the B2 visitor for pleasure category is usable for certain amateur entertainers (and athletes) as set forth at 9 FAM 402.2-4(A)(7). For an entertainer to qualify for a B2 visa, he or she must be an amateur. Being an “amateur” means that he or she is not a member of any professional organization associated with the activity and that he or she “normally performs without remuneration (other than an allotment for expenses).” If the entertainer is normally compensated for his or her performances, he or she would be ineligible for a B2 visa regardless of his or her intended activities in the United States. This applies even if the entertainer does not normally make a living at performing.

Provided that the entertainer qualifies as an “amateur,” he or she (or a group) must be entering the United States to perform in:

A social and/or charitable context;
As a competitor in a talent show; or
In a contest.

Note that amateur athletes may also qualify to perform in athletic events under the same conditions.

A B2 amateur entertainer may not accept any payment for the performances on B2 status. However, he or she may have incidental expenses associated with the visit reimbursed.

As we noted, 9 FAM 402.2-5(G)(1) and (2) allow professional entertainers to qualify for B1 status under similar circumstances to the provision for amateur entertainers in the B2 context.


The B1 category has specific provisions for entertainers and artists. Where applicable, the B1 category is useful for an entertainer or artist to enter the United States for a limited purpose. For cases that fall outside the scope of B1, the entertainer or artist would have to look at more robust nonimmigrant visa categories such as the P nonimmigrant category. When in doubt, it is recommended that an individual consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance.

As always in B visa cases, it is important for B1 entertainers and artists to be cognizant of the scope of the category, especially its prohibitions on employment and on sources of income. Minor violations of B nonimmigrant status can have long-term immigration consequences for an alien. For this reason, it is wise to seek counsel whenever one is in doubt as to whether a specific activity or event falls within the scope of permissible activities in B status. Furthermore, it is imperative that individuals seeking B visas are fully forthright with consular officials as to their intended activities in the United States.