Many people believe that there is a minimum required salary to file for an O-1 Visa but is there any truth to this? It is certainly true that other visas may come with a salary requirement such as the H-1B visa. This means the government has identified a specific wage (also known as a prevailing wage) a foreign national must earn in order to receive this visa.
Do I Need a High Salary?
When we speak about O-1 visa applicants, we’re focusing on creatives, artists, performers, and entertainers. Due to the nature of these fields, wages and salaries may fluctuate throughout the course of their careers. One client may be anticipating $12,000 per year whereas another may be expecting 1 million dollars. The government knows this and therefore there is no minimum salary requirement for O-1 visa applicants. However, if an immigration officer determines that a petitioner is not making a livable wage, it is possible to receive an RFE.
This possibility makes contract negotiations of the utmost importance. Establishing proper remuneration is very important for the O-1 visa. Aiming to make a livable wage relative to one’s location and expenses can make the entire O-1 smoother.
Money in the arts industry tends to change over time and projects. While models may make money per shoot or project, other creatives such as dancers or performers may not have that luxury of earning consistent income. Such a situation does not preclude one from getting an O-1 visa however. A current high salary is not a bar of entry and one may still be approved due to their extraordinary ability, even with a low future salary. In fact, there are six regulatory criteria for the O-1 visa and you need only to meet three out of the six.
Even the thought of a high salary can be intimidating to negotiate, it is an opportunity to argue an additional criterion if one is indeed making a high salary. It is not uncommon to base a projected salary off of future endeavors or past work. For example, honing one’s craft through their visa may allow for higher-paying work in the future. Maybe a painting was previously sold by the artist for a sizable sum, relative to the field, and therefore shows a potential for increasingly higher wages.
What Does This Mean?
If none of this applies, focusing on a high salary does not mean the end of a visa journey. It simply means that one must focus their petition on the other aspects of their career that may fit the regulatory criteria. This may include industry achievements, the experts one works with, and the potential for future work.
A major key in the process is developing a strong expertise and distinguishing one’s self in his or her field. All of this is possible without a high salary.
Elektra Yao is an immigration attorney representing international artists, creatives, performers, and entertainers. For more information, please visit www.yaolawgroup.com.