I am in the States with an exchange student visa, but it ends in May, 2009. So I am looking forward to be able to change it to a visa I can work with. So my question is, should I start to look for auditions/agents now or when I will have the other visa? I have heard that you can’t get the working visa if you don’t have a job. How does it work in this industry?
I don’t know if exchange visas are different, but a lot of student visas allow foreign students to work in the country for a year after they finish their studies on a “training visa”, so check with your acting school to see if that’s an option while you apply for a long-term visa.
Keep in mind that your work visa needs to be for acting if you want to be able to work as an actor. That can be tough since acting jobs are usually short term. On the other hand, if you find a theater or employer who wants to sponsor you, all they have to show is that no one else can do your job (which is easy, since every actor is unique). This is not legal advice. I’m not an immigration expert but that’s how I understand it.
In terms of looking for acting agents and managers… Most agents are interested in a long-term relationship. They’ll want to make sure you can work legally in America for at least a few years before they sign with you, so in most cases you’ll need a work visa before you look for representation. That being said, if all you can get is a one-year training visa, some agents will still work with you on a freelance basis, sending you out on auditions when a casting requires an actor with a particular accent or nationality.
In terms of looking for auditions… I wouldn’t go to paying auditions until I get a visa (unless you think the company is willing to sponsor you, which may be the case for paid interships and fellowships). It would just be too frustrating to get an acting job you really want and not be able to take it. That doesn’t mean you can’t flex your acting muscles in the meantime by auditioning for non-paying acting jobs. There’s plenty of those in off-off-Broadway theaters and short or independent films. Of course, you need some kind of visa to be in the country.
Hope this information is helpful. The process of getting a visa can be frustrating for foreign actors. While you wait for a visa, I think it’s a good idea to continue training by auditioning and working in your country. You may want to check out this recent post about non-citizen actors.
How to have a career in Hollywood if you’re from another country
I was wondering how to get a US working visa as an actor? Can you audition without a working Visa? Can an acting agent or manager sponsor the visa? How do I build a resume in the US without a working visa?
This is not legal advice, but here is what I have been told by other actors…
You need a work visa to make a living as an actor in the US. If you don’t have a Green Card, you need a work visa specifically for the field you want to work in.
It is very hard to get a theater or film company to sponsor you for a work visa, so it is not a good idea to audition before you have one.
You can build your resume in the US taking non-paying acting roles as long as you have a student visa.
As I said, I’m not an expert, so you should check all this with an immigration lawyer that has experience working with actors.