A Special U.S. Work Visa for Models?

Yes, there is a visa available only to international fashion models working temporarily in the U.S. - the H-1B3 Visa.

A little-known subcategory of the H-1B visa allows international fashion models to come to the U.S. temporarily in order to be employed in a position that requires a prominent fashion model of distinguished merit and abilities. Although some of the visa eligibility and application requirements are the same as for a regular H-1B visa, there are significant differences, as discussed here.

H-1B3 Visa Eligibility

A fashion model seeking an H-1B3 visa must have a job offer from a U.S. employer, for work to be performed in the U.S., at a salary that is at least the prevailing wage paid in the same geographic area for the same type of work. The model must have the correct background to qualify for the job, and he or she must be renowned, leading, or well known. (Note that the model does not need to be performing services in a specialty occupation requiring a college degree, as is required of regular H-1B visa applicants.)

Benefits and Restrictions

The H-1B3 visa holder can work legally in the U.S. for the employer for up to a maximum of six years. Visas are available for the accompanying spouse and minor children, but they may not work in the U.S. (unless they qualify for a work visa in their own right). The visa holder may travel in and out of the U.S. or remain here continuously until the date his or her status expires.

If terminated or fired from the job, the employer must pay the visa holder's costs of returning home (but not if the model quits voluntarily).

H-1B3 Visa Application Process

The employer will have to start the process, by filing a Labor Condition Attestation (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), describing the job and proving that you'll be paid the prevailing wage. After that is approved, the employer must file a visa petition on Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As part of this process, the employer will have to prove (and you may have to help it prove) that you are, in fact, a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability, by submitting documentation, certifications, affidavits by experts, writings, reviews, or other evidence.

If you're inside the U.S. at this time, the employer can simultaneously ask that your status be changed to H-1B3 worker. If you're outside the U.S., then after the visa petition is approved and a visa becomes available, you submit your own application to a U.S. consulate. (If you're from Canada, however, you can go straight to the U.S. border with your application materials.)

Fees and Costs

The employer will typically pay the cost of filing the required visa petition. When you attend your visa interview at the U.S. consulate, you will be asked to pay the visa application fee. Find the latest amount on the "Fees for Visa Services" page of the State Department website.

Documents to Bring to Your Visa Interview

You'll need to prepare or assemble the following for your visa interview at the U.S. consulate:

  • Printout of Form DS-160, which you'll fill out online.
  • Notice showing approval of your H-1B3 visa petition.
  • Valid passport for you and each accompanying relative.
  • One passport-style photo of you and each accompanying relative.
  • If your spouse and children will be accompanying you, documents verifying the family relationship, such as marriage and birth certificates.
  • Receipt showing payment of visa application fee.
  • Visa issuance fee, if required.

If you need legal advice about using this type of visa to enter the U.S., please see an immigration attorney licensed in the U.S. For more information on work visas and temporary employment in the United States, see our section on Working in the U.S.

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