International Film Immigration

From Hollywood blockbusters to indie productions, the world’s film industry is centered in the United States. For many international actors, being cast in an American movie is a career milestone. It also requires securing an O or P visa, which can be a complicated process. At Dickinson Wright, we have a team of immigration attorneys in seventeen offices across North America providing experienced guidance to foreign national actors and entertainers as they pursue their dreams of working in the U.S. Our clients also include all the major and independent film studios as well as agents and managers who serve as sponsoring organizations.

Working in the United States under an O or P visa requires meeting specific requirements and demonstrating “extraordinary abilities.” We have spent decades preparing these applications and understand how to best position a particular actor to satisfy these rigorous criteria. Once admitted, we also advise foreign national actors and sponsors on maintaining legal immigration status and handle visa renewals, as required. We work closely with our clients at all times, serving as trusted guides through what can be a confusing experience.

Our work in this area includes:

• Advising foreign national actors and entertainers on the requirements, classifications, and process for obtaining O and P visas.
• Representing organizations, agents, and employers serving as sponsors.
• Advising visa holders on maintaining legal status once admitted.
• Handling the process for visa renewals.
• Counseling employers on employment verification, federal investigations, and immigration compliance, including: conducting audits, developing compliance manuals and policies, preparing clients for unannounced visa petition verification investigations, and representing clients in Department of Labor audits and PERM labor certification applications.

Film and Television Industry Workers Coming to Canada

International film and television productions are a booming business in Canada. Production costs are low, as a result of foreign producers having access to federal and provincial tax credits on eligible labor and tax incentives on local qualifying spending, as well as the reduced value of the Canadian dollar. Toronto and Vancouver have been hot spots for television and film production for decades, and other parts of the country have offered them strong competition in recent years.

Dickinson Wright’s Canadian immigration law department has particular expertise in obtaining the appropriate status to allow actors, entertainers and other film and television workers from the United States and abroad to work in Canada. We advise on all aspects of obtaining entry to the Canadian market.

A great many activities related to international film and television productions are specifically exempted from the need for a work permit, most notably producers of film, television, video and documentary projects funded entirely from outside of Canada. For other types of activities, a work permit will be required. We work with our clients to determine the most cost-effective and least time-consuming methods for them to apply to enter Canada, whether by way of exemptions to work permits, exemptions from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process, or otherwise. A specific exemption from the LMIA process is available for persons carrying out work essential to a TV or film production that would create and maintain significant economic benefits and opportunities for Canadians and permanent residents. We are well-versed in ensuring that applications for work permits are structured to demonstrate the satisfaction of the criteria necessary to qualify for this LMIA exemption. This advice is vital to clients, as the costs and time associated with an LMIA work permit are considerably greater than is the case for an LMIA-exempt work permit.

In particular, we have considerable experience in how to best present the qualifications of visiting actors, entertainers and other film and television workers so as to satisfy the authorities that they meet the standards required for the issue of “significant benefit” work permits, issued to those who create or maintain significant cultural, social, or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadians. We will help ensure that no details are left out of any such applications.

Sometime, complications can arise in particular cases. A person may be inadmissible to Canada due to a past criminal conviction – even convictions that would be considered minor in the person’s home jurisdiction may result in a bar from entry into Canada. In such situations, we can apply our wealth of experience to advise clients on how to overcome inadmissibility, and that advice will often make the difference between smooth entry on the one hand, and being turned away from Canada at a crucial time on the other.

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