Visa Options for TV & Film Actors

Wendy Alane Wright

Wendy Alane Wright

Actors who aren’t U.S. citizens, but want to move to America to further their acting career are can get Visas that allow them to temporarily live & work in the U.S.

Visas for Actors

I was asked not too long ago, “Wendy, when should I move to the US? I’ve seen a lot of your videos about moving and when to do it. So bearing in mind I’m 16 and have nothing on my resume, no training, et cetera. When should I be looking to move? I want to do it ASAP for when I turn 18 but obviously I need to be realistic about it.”

 

Yes, you do. Let’s tackle this. So these questions are complicated. So let’s take it step by step. So you do not want to come to the United States with nothing on you resume and no experience. You want to get as much experience as you can in the country that you live in.

 

So wherever you live, you need to be doing plays. You need to be taking acting classes. You need to be finding short films and student films to be in and do what you can to get an agent where you live so you can audition for TV and for film and commercials.

 

So you need to get as much experience as you possibly can on your resume. If you’re 12, you can start now. If you’re 16, you could start now. If you’re 24, start now but start where you are. Start where you live. When you get to the United States, there’s a lot of competition. So if you’re under 18 and you’re still living at home, let your parents pay those bills. You get an extra job and use that money to pay for your acting classes, your headshots and building your acting clips. You absolutely must have experience before you come over here because you’re going to be competing against actors your age, whatever age you are, that have lots of experience, right?

Start Your Acting Career Where You Are

So wherever you are, don’t wait until you get to the United States to build an acting career. Start where you are. Remember this. When you’re coming over from another country, you have to have a visa to come work in this country and there are two ways to go about it. 

You could become a student of a school that gives away a visa for a year of training and that’s like Stella Adler Academy or Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute and you can get a visa and come over on a student visa and train for a year or two and you will learn a lot about the business and talk to a lot of actors while you’re here, while you’re getting that training. So that’s a good idea.

Also you can apply for a green card and when they’re looking at entertainers for an O-1 visa, they’re going to check off certain criteria and one of the things they want to see is, “Are you a working actor in your own country? Have you reached some level of notoriety? Are there newspaper clippings about you? Are you getting paid a good wage to act? Have you been in some notable projects?”

So if you have said yes to those things, it will be easier for you to get a visa to come on over here. So being realistic, train where you are, get acting clips where you are, work on as many projects as you can where you are so you can build your resume and figure out how you’re legally going to come over here. You can consult with immigration attorneys to see what your options are.

What About Short Films?

OK. Then here’s another question. “What should I be doing about short films and student films?” I don’t even understand what that means. “What should I be doing with them? I will be able to do theater but I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do the others in my current situation. North Hampton is a town with literally nothing to it and nothing going on. That means I would have to travel quite a bit for a new production.”

OK. When you live in another country, you may not live in a country that has a lot of acting classes. It might not have a lot of entertainment business related things but you still have the dream to be an actor.

Of course you’re not going to give up your dream. But you have to do two things. You need to train in acting somehow. So you can go online and Skype coach with acting teachers here in the United States or maybe even in England or Germany or whatever. Even if you live in your country and there is nothing right in your city, somewhere in your country there might be some great acting teachers that can Skype coach with you or you can also Skype coach with LA teachers like I said.

You definitely need to be getting training and if you’re in a city where there’s not a lot of theater, you don’t have to wait for other people to do theater. You can start your own theater. Get a couple of other friends who are actors. Look through plays. Go to a church and ask if you can borrow their sanctuary or whatever to put on a play. Schedule your rehearsals. Find someone locally who can direct it for you and put on theater. Create your own theater group

You Have to be Proactive As An Actor

You can’t wait for other people to give you permission to do what you love to do. You’ve got to think outside the box and that means take chances. Do things that no one else is doing. Do things for the very first time in your city. There has never been a theater. Create one, you know. It’s no big deal. 

The only thing that gets in the way of anyone doing things is their own thinking. So just be confident and try different things. Also another thing I always suggest is to look on Facebook. If you need to figure out where there are acting classes or where the industry is going in your country or state, if you type in – like say for example I’m in LA and I type in “actors”. It’s going to bring up whatever is going on in my region. So if you’re in Kentucky, it’s going to bring that up. If you’re in Paris, it’s going to bring up what’s central to your region. 

Once I get into an actor group on Facebook and I join it, I could ask those actors in there questions. Like, look, I’m 16 or I’m 25 or I’m 35. I’m looking for a great on-camera class or a scene study class. Can anyone recommend a great class in Berlin, in Kentucky, in Nashville, whatever? 

You’ve got to utilize the resources that you have and on Facebook, there’s such a great group of actors and you should join a page called Casting Directors for Actors. There’s a ton of agents and managers and casting directors who are always looking at the site and answering questions for actors and you should be a part of that community. It’s a beautiful community started by my friend Jeremy Gordon who’s a casting director and my friend Edward Hong is one of the moderators and it’s a beautiful group. So I suggest you join it

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