Contracts, itineraries, letters of support, reviews, an AGMA advisory letter (worth $350) and a detailed description of every recital, production, or class you have ever worked on are just a few examples from the lengthy list of documents necessary to obtain an O1-B Visa in the United States. The O1-B, also known as the Artist Visa, is a 3-year work visa granted to individuals with “extraordinary ability in the arts”. It is the main path that most of your international friends in the arts field have to take to continue their careers in the US.
I started my process in February 2020, a month before the first lockdown was announced. Over a year later, after an extensive and tedious process, I received my approval. Sometime in that year, I came across the International Circle at Dance Artists National Collective (DANC). DANC “is a united group of dancers advocating for safe, equitable, and sustainable working conditions in the U.S., especially those who are most impacted by systems of oppression. DANC works to empower dancers, who are often underpaid, mistreated, manipulated, and misclassified, by engaging in research, sharing resources, educating members, and organizing for collective action, and championing labor standards”
The International Dancers Circle organizes specifically to create work guidelines that fit the unique needs of dancers living outside of their home country, especially those navigating the complex US Immigration system. It also serves as a support group. “How are you supporting yourself if performances were cancelled? How are travel restrictions affecting you? Can you apply for unemployment?” These were just a few of the questions that came up in our conversations and not all of them had clear answers. What these “rant-versations” made evident was that there was confusing information for immigrant artists and limited information for allies.
The immigrations discourse in America is much larger than the complications of achieving work visas. The system is difficult to navigate and leaves behind those who are most marginalized. It is easy to feel discouraged when discussing such complex topics, which is why DANC members have shared the following list of action items for U.S. allies to help immigrant artists.
If you are an American Company / Collective / Choreographer:
Write Letters of Support
A letter can make or break a petition, especially if you are an established figure in the dance world who has worked in big productions or won awards.
Get Press Coverage*
Press is on the most important materials required to obtain or renew an O1 visa. Increase the visibility of your work and your dancers by obtaining press reviews, interviews, articles or featuring them in promotional materials such as company websites, advertisements and social media.
Offer Additional Work
Artists on work visas can only be employed within their field. We are not able to rely on the side gig economy that often supports art workers. Offering other dance-related jobs such as teaching, dramaturgy, administrative or social media work allows us to earn additional income.
Support With Application Costs
Artists need to hire legal counsel to file their petition. In addition to lawyer and application fees, which can go as high as $7,500, immigrant artists have to pay union advisory letter fees and extensive printing costs. If you have financial stability, share your resources.
Intentionally Hire Immigrant Dancers
*Dancegeist Magazine will work with any organization or choreographer to arrange published press for any immigrant artists.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
END THE EXCLUSIONARY PRACTICE OF BARRING O1 VISA HOLDERS FROM AUDITIONS!
If you are an American Dancer / Human for the arts:
The lengthy application processes, restrictions and being far away from home can take an emotional toll on your immigrant artists friends. Check up on them and ask them what they need.
Pay it Forward
Despite paying taxes, non-US citizens have work restrictions and are unable to file for unemployment, food stamps or Section 8 housing. Consider sharing your resources if you have the financial stability to do so.
Share Your Knowledge
Be an ally by helping your immigrant friends navigate taxes, health insurance or any other system that may be different from their home country.
Call your State and Federal Reps & Tell Them to Fund Excluded Workers
New Yorkers: Follow @fewcoallition on Instagram to join the fight for excluded workers in NYS.
To hear personal stories from immigrant dance artists and support DANC’s mission, follow our socials. While you are there, like, comment and share our other advocacy calls and tools.
The action items above and Awareness Campaign were put together by the current members of the International Dance Circle:
Canadian choreographer and dance artist currently based in Los Angeles. Alexsa works collaboratively and across genres to amplify embodiment and collective experience and to deviate from what may already be set up for us.
Originally from Vienna Austria, Réka is a NYC based dance artist currently dancing for Megan Williams Dance Project and Sue Bernhard Danceworks. She has danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet since January 2016 and is part of the leading team of the independent collective, Dancers of the Met.
Dancer and choreographer from San Francisco, California currently based in France, where she dances with the CCN Ballet de Lorraine.
Mexican dance artist, teacher and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently working with SLMDances, NK&D / A movement company and Mobilized Voices (MOBIV), as well as with dance collectives that engage with the staging of the Latin American body.
Canadian dancer and choreographer based in Peekskill, NY. She has presented her choreographic work around the world and is currently dancing with UNA Productions and Kayla Farrish.
If you are a dance artist working outside your home country interested in joining DANC, contact us at email@example.com