View Full Version : us visas...

london boy 80
11-14-2004, 08:39 AM
Hi everyone,

I am currently based in London, and have spent the last few years gaining production experience, and writing scripts in my off- time. I'm now looking to head for the sun of California, but am burdened by the fact that I am neither married to an American, nor do I have any US family members, creating an immigration situation that is not very enviable...

I was wondering if anyone had personal experience with the types of visa that work best with regards to screenwriting and/ or production work. I am viewing this move as a permanent one, so will be looking to get a green card as soon as possible...in the meantime though, I would like to obtain a visa that allows me to work in L.A.....

Any help or advice anyone has would be fantastic!

11-14-2004, 10:03 AM
Not trying to be a smart ass, but the US maintains embassies around the world who are only too happy to answer these questions.

If you haven't already, goto www.usembassy.org.uk/ (http://www.usembassy.org.uk/) and select "Travel to the U.S."

-----------------------My Web Page - naked women, bestial sex, and whopping big lies. (http://hometown.aol.co.uk/DPaterson57)

11-14-2004, 12:29 PM
I would love to be proven wrong on this, but I think making a permanent move to take up gainful employment is fantasy. You could get a tourist visa (from memory 6 months with the possibility of a 6 month extension) and live off your savings, but keep in mind that soliciting work in the US, such as shopping a spec and taking meetings, would more than likely be in breach of the terms of the visa.

Nor do I think you would be able to get a temporary work permit to work for a US production company. US immigration not only require a degree in the field you will be working in, but it also has to be demonstrated that the job cannot be filled by a US citizen.

Best you could do at this stage would be to get a job at a UK firm with a Los Angeles office? Otherwise a temporary/seasonal H-2B visa would probably be your best shot, no degree needed but the "shortage of U.S. workers" proviso still applies.

If you want to take up productive employment the various visa options are outlined here:

www.usembassy.org.uk/cons...v/work.htm (http://www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_web/visa/niv/work.htm)

11-15-2004, 04:09 PM
Find out what kind of classes would qualify you for a student visa. Classes at Santa Monica City College? The Professional Program in screenwriting at UCLA? I have a friend from England who got a student visa when he started the MFA at UCLA, stretched that for four years, and then his wife (from Hong Kong) got admitted to UCLA for her undergraduate degree. We now joke that she'll have to go for a PhD to help him with his screenwriting career.


11-16-2004, 12:53 AM
dude --

I've had personal experience of your dilemma with some differences. The above postings are accurate (esp. the last one), but sometimes there are less trodden ways.

obviously if you have some $$$ saved up, you're in a better position than if you don't. i came here from London on a tourist visa, then signed up for a 9-month screenwriting class in Seattle, then changed status from tourist to student to go to grad school in journalism (worked my way through as a teaching assistant and via a small so-called Grad Assist loan), then got hired right out of grad school into a journalism job on a practical training visa, upgraded that to an H1B work visa, then got married and then divorced a few years later -- all told 7 years! A long road and not the smoothest character arc. But I'm here, and wiser for the journey!

If I could do this over, my first choice would be to write a fantastic screenplay or two, get famous as an ace writer, then walk through the many doors that might open as a result. But just in case that didn't work out, I would probably go the student route again but in your case perhaps try to go to film school in California. To qualify for a student visa it would have to be a full-time accredited institution, which would rule out night school and probably community college classes, etc. US Immigration likes would-be students to pick their school and apply to it BEFORE coming to the US on a student visa, but you have to get the ball rolling on that at least a year or more before you even plan to set foot here. Used to be that you could get a prospective student visa to come here and check out the schools, then return to UK and apply from there. (Don't know if those visas still exist in the post 9/11 world).
If you try to do it the other way, changing visa status once here (as I did), it's tricky and maybe not even possible any more.

Once in film school, network like a madman, and when you get out you might be able to get what used to be called a "work experience" or "practical training" visa, which gives 12-18 months of work with a US employer (or used to). If that goes well, you could try approaching said employer (or another) to hire you on a longer term basis on an H1B visa (temporary work visa), which lasts a few years. Some people upgrade from that to a green card, but I hear that's getting harder and harder to do, unless you somehow make yourself indispensable over here.

Obviously, if you're single throughout this period of years, marrying a US citizen can happen in a natural way, or you could become huge in the movie business, which would open doors in itself. I know several people who have come to US through the green card lottery program, but i don't think UK-born people can apply or even if the program still exists. If you were not born in UK, it's worth looking into. it's free and, contrary to what tons of lawyer websites say, you don't need a lawyer's services to do it!

A final word: If you go the school route, don't let the massive sticker price on colleges and universities paralyze you in despair. I found that, if I could just scrape together funds or the promise of funds ON PAPER (by writing every relative and family friend and asking them to write a letter certifying that they would pay to put me thru school, etc. -- anything to assure the school and Immigration that I would not be a financial burden to them), then I could go ahead with the application process. Once that process is done, if you get accepted in the school, it's amazing how many doors open for earning cash once you have been accepted (teaching assistantships, library work, other campus jobs, etc.), making the final bill considerably less daunting than it at first appeared.

Your journey will obviously be very different from mine, and many laws, etc. have changed since 9/11, but hope some of this still applies and helps you. Best of luck!

london boy 80
11-16-2004, 05:15 AM

Thank you so much, it's these more down- trodden ways that I am looking for!

Unfortunately UK citizens are no longer eligible for the lottery visa (one of the few European countries- must be our poor Anglo- American relations!) so that's a dead end...

I actually have a tourist visa where I can come in to the US for up to six months, and can change visa status while I am there...I guess ideally I would find an H-1B sponsor while on that trip, it's finding that elusive company willing to do it that's the problem! (my major was English Literature, making it additionally difficult)

I actually have acting representation in Los Angeles, and connections with producers just starting out, but unfortunately none of them are quite big- time enough yet to really help me out...

I have heard that post- 9/11 one of the best ways to do it is be employed by a studio that has offices in London, and get them to pay you through the London office....after one year they can transfer you out and immediately apply for a green card....the L-1 visa I believe...However, persuading a studio to do that will obviously mean that I have to have something tangible to offer them in return....

Hopefully my luck will change soon....some immigration lawyers are so unhelpful that they suggest marriage as a serious option when I am still in my early 20's! Still, maybe that hit screenplay is just around the corner....!!!

Many thanks to everyone for their help!

11-16-2004, 02:35 PM
london boy --

sorry my 1st posting was so long but i sympathize with your dilemma. it's true that you can come in on a tourist visa for 6 months, and it used to be possible to renew that in 90-day increments for up to a year before La Migra starts asking questions. to change status once here, i had to get accepted in a school, then answer a 12-question form and wait on pins and needles for weeks to see if they would let me go to school or throw me out of the country. but you're in your 20s. you can take some risks that would be harder for someone in their 30s.

going the studio route you suggest sounds good, even if the possibility of a green card is remote. i'd still take a long, hard look at grad school or film school as a sure-fire legal way to spend a number of years over here, during which time anything can happen. (my undergrad degree was in Eng. Lit. too, BTW.) use every bit of your creativity, and if it's meant to be, maybe it will be. good luck!

london boy 80
11-17-2004, 07:17 AM

My thanks again, you seem to have gone through all the routes yourself....

I have heard of situations where people intern for free for a few months, and then companies become willing to sponsor visas as a result of the committment showed....have you heard of similiar situations?

11-18-2004, 04:52 AM
i have not heard of that specifically but it sounds feasible. if you can afford a good lawyer, there are doors that can open that would otherwise be sealed. i knew a gal in Seattle who worked for years on an H1B for a company and made herself very hard to replace. when she could no longer renew the H1B, she found a lawyer who managed to work it so her employer could sponsor her for a green card based on "exceptional contribution" or some other such unusual legality. She got a green card this way. that said, this came after several years of service to her employer.

Can an internship work the same way? maybe, though i'd guess your chances are better on an H1B simply because you have several years in which to make yourself indispensable. (H1Bs used to last 6 years, I think.) but hey, try them all!