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What are the differences between P and O visas?

Elite professionals often travel between Canada and the U.S. If you are a Canadian entertainer or athlete (or work with one) and wish to travel to the United States, you will need to secure the proper visa. This can be a complicated process.

For instance, people often confuse or conflate P and O visas. While they both serve the people in the same industries (entertainers, athletes and extraordinary professionals), they are different.

O visas

There are two different types of O visas. The O-1 visa is for the individual artist or professional; an O-2 visa is for personnel accompanying them.

An O-1 visa applicant must demonstrate extraordinary abilities in the arts or, in some cases, professional fields. Examples of this could include:

  • Accomplished musicians
  • Professional athletes
  • Exceptional students

Parties applying for an O-1 visa must submit a petition including consultations and opinions from appropriate groups.

Those seeking an O-2 visa must have their employer or agent submit a request on their behalf. The petition should illustrate the critical skills and essential nature of a person’s work and support of the extraordinary individual.

P visas

P visas can be the appropriate option for:

  • Extraordinary entertainment groups
  • Parties participating in a reciprocal exchange program
  • Culturally unique performers
  • Athletes coming to compete in a specific event
  • Support staff for these parties

The application requirements for individuals and personnel seeking a P visa are similar to those for parties seeking an O visa. Applicants must submit documentation such as consultations and evidence of recognition.

Again, there are multiple types of P visas; a person’s role and purpose will dictate the kind of P visa for which they are eligible.

Avoiding costly mistakes

Parties seeking O and P visas often have a lot on the line when it comes to international appearances. Misinterpreting the visa requirements can mean delays and rejected applications, resulting in cancelled appearances and expensive logistical changes.

To avoid this, parties travelling between the U.S. and Canada for appearances can work with a lawyer experienced in handling immigration cases in both countries.