P-1 Fact Pattern: The Hungarian Dolls

by Jacki Granet

This is a fictional fact pattern case study for the purposes of providing general legal information. No Daryanani Law Group client information is used or revealed and any similarity to real people is entirely coincidental.

MICKEY: Hi, Sienna. It’s Mickey. If you remember, I’m a manager with the Heater Group, a talent agency in LA. You helped one of our artists get a work visa before, and now I just signed on to manage a fantastic girl group from London. We want to bring them over here to the US to start touring as soon as possible. 

SIENNA: Hi, Mickey. Tell me about them.

MICKEY: They’re called The Hungarian Dolls, and it’s five women: Allison is the best singer and the face of the group, known as Hot Doll. Katrina is the youngest member. She's quiet so we named her Shy Doll. Tara is our best dancer. She’s called Fierce Doll. Samantha is originally from Russia and exudes self-confidence so she’s referred to as Vixen Doll. Then there’s Anka, the oldest member of the group. She has truly seen it all. She's Crazy Doll. Can they just come to the US under the visa waiver program to perform?

SIENNA: No, that’s not authorized, even if all of them have passports from a visa waiver eligible country. Since they are coming to the US to work—play their music and perform on tour—they’re required to obtain a work visa before entering the US. And since they’re a group we can look at the P-1 visa for performance groups as an option.   


SIENNA: But one of the provisions of the P-1B visa is that in order to be classified as a group, at least 75% of the members must have been performing together for one year or more. How long have they been together?

MICKEY: They started out in 2008 with just Allison, Samantha, and Anka but after touring around Europe, they felt the need to round out the group so they added Katrina and Tara in 2010—so three years ago. 

SIENNA: That should be fine then. We also have to show that the group is internationally recognized for a sustained and substantial period of time, which means that they must have earned a high level of achievement. To do this we need to be able to provide evidence that they have a degree of skill and recognition that is substantially above the level ordinarily encountered. This achievement must be renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country. Also, it is very important that the achievement and recognition be on behalf of the group. It's not enough if the achievement and recognition comes from one of the members of the group from solo work. We can show all this by awards the group has won, high earnings for the group, published material about them, tour schedules, reviews of performances, and any other pieces of evidence that show these things. Can you tell me more about the group’s accomplishments? Have they performed live at any events or do they have a recording contract? 

MICKEY: They released their first full album in 2008. At the time they were signed to a small recording studio and it didn’t sell very well. Then they signed to Brilliant Records and recorded a second album in 2010 which sold pretty well in Europe and Asia. Once the album was released, they toured pretty much nonstop. They’ve played some notable festivals like Pop Jams in London, Girlz Rule in Berlin, and East by Far East in Bangkok, and a bunch of others. 

SIENNA: That’s all great. Have they been reviewed in major publications or appeared on TV?  

MICKEY: Totally. They’ve had some great write-ups in major music magazines and newspapers. Well, mostly great. Not everyone is a fan of pop music so there are a few critics who didn’t like them. Is that an issue?

SIENNA: The negative reviews shouldn’t be a problem as long as there is enough positive press. 

MICKEY: And they’ve played live on a bunch of TV shows.

SIENNA: Perfect. Do you have a US tour schedule in mind?

MICKEY: Yes, it’s all coming together. We have venues across the US for the next fourteen months. And they open in New York City! 

SIENNA: It all sounds like they would qualify for the visa. But a few more things: the P-1B visa is only valid for a maximum duration of twelve months, but it can be extended if we can show that the event (or this case, the tour) that the beneficiaries are coming to perform in is extended. We also have to figure out who will sponsor the P-1. Do they have a US agent? Or would the tour management company be willing to sponsor?

MICKEY: Can I sponsor them through Heater?

SIENNA: Yes, but you will need to show a contract with the group as well as a contract or deal memo with the touring company. 

MICKEY: We’re still working out the deal. It may be a few more weeks. 

SIENNA: We should be okay if it’s signed in a few weeks but if it isn’t, perhaps we can just highlight the key terms on a deal memo.

MICKEY: That should work. Can we get them here next week since we need to start fitting them for their outfits? They each have five costume changes in the show—they're totally freaking out.

SIENNA: Next week is not possible. It'll take about eight to ten weeks to put all this together. 

MICKEY:  Okay, hmm. Let me see if we can get them fitted in Europe. Leave that with me. What would you need on my end to get this started? 

SIENNA: I will email you a full list, but it’s going to include biographies of all the members, all the press you mentioned, the contracts or deal memos, and the tour itinerary. It would also be helpful to have any marketing materials from previous tours and festivals. Of course, we would want a copy of their album. And we will need to know how much each of them will be paid. 

MICKEY: So we can get this done in eight weeks? 

SIENNA: It’s a tight turnaround, but if you get me all the requested information by the end of the week, we’ll do our best. Before submitting the petition to USCIS, we need to send a copy to the appropriate union to obtain an advisory opinion, which can take up to a week. Given your timeframe, I would suggest filing premium processing so we can get an answer from USCIS in fifteen calendar days. Do you think you can get me everything by the end of the week?

MICKEY: That should not be a problem. I’ll get started right away. 

SIENNA: After the petition with USCIS here in the US is approved, each of the women will have to go to a US Consulate or Embassy abroad for an interview for the visa stamp. That can take up to another two weeks. So, again, we should get started right away. 

MICKEY: No, problem. Oh, one last thing. Anka got married last month. Is it possible for her husband to come along on the tour?

SIENNA: Yes. There's something called a P-4 visa for dependants. On this visa though her husband would not be permitted to work. What does he do for a living?

MICKEY: He’s a vocal coach. He’s worked with a bunch of artists, including The Hungarian Dolls. You should have heard Anka’s voice before they met. Yikes.

SIENNA: Is he contracted to work with the group for the US tour? If so, it sounds like he might qualify for a P-1S visa, which covers essential support personnel. He must have the right qualifications and have critical knowledge of vocal training as well as experience. From what you’ve already said, it sounds like he could be a good fit. Send me his resume and I’ll take a look. Whether he gets a P-1S or a P-4, the duration would only be for the time of The Hungarian Dolls’ P-1 visa. And again, we would need to move quickly because his petition must also be sent for a consultation with a labor organization. 

MICKEY: Sure, no problem. I appreciate your help. I’ll send you everything.

SIENNA: Wonderful! I look forward to it.


MICKEY: Thanks for working so hard to get this case approved. We received the approval notice and I had my assistant take care of the consular process. She filled out the DS-160s for each Doll and scheduled their appointments. Actually, the appointments are tomorrow morning. That’s why I am calling...

SIENNA: What’s up?

MICKEY: It’s Tara. She was just admitted to the hospital for a really bad stomach bug or something. The doctors want to keep her overnight to observe. Anyway, Tara is probably going to miss her appointment. Will that cancel the other girls’ appointments? 

SIENNA: No, not all. They should proceed as normal. There’s no requirement that all members of a group getting a P-1B visa stamp attend their appointments at the same time or even at the same Embassy or Consulate. 

MICKEY: Oh, what a relief! I was so worried. What about Tara’s appointment? How do I fix it?

SIENNA: You will have to re-schedule her appointment. Since she’s going to the London Embassy , you can request that the Embassy “unlock” your MRV fee. You have to login to the system, then select “Reschedule due to Missed Appointment” and follow the instructions.

MICKEY: Thank you! I will let you know how everything turns out. 


MICKEY: Great news! Each Doll now has her passport back with the visa stamp inside. We are free to conquer the US market! And we want you to come to the opening show in New York!

SIENNA: That’s wonderful news! I’d love to come. Safe travels!