Work Visa and the Canadian Actor

Hi, Bonnie,

Thank you so much for all your articles on Actors Access and for your input on the Reel Deel on the Virtual Channel Network. I can’t tell you how much I not only enjoy reading them, but have learned so much about the industry and the craft through your experience and insight.

I am a Canadian actor residing in Vancouver. I am trying to find a legal way to get down to LA to pursue my career. I’m not getting any younger and so much of the information I’m getting is all about getting yourself to LA. I’m trying to get enough work under my belt here for experience and putting a presentable reel together. That being said, I have a few questions for you.

I often see on Actors Access breakdowns that permanent resident status or a green card is the only acceptable document that would permit a foreign actor to work in LA and not visas. Are visas totally unacceptable?

Part II of that question is, is it worthwhile to set up meetings with agents in LA if I have neither of those documents? Not so much for me, but I wouldn’t want to waste agents’ time.

I would so appreciate any help you could offer in this matter.

Sincerely,
Rosanna Grelo

Hi Rosanna and thanks for your email! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my columns.

It’s interesting, because I know I have cast Canadian actors before (and I’m actually going to be casting two films later this year that will shoot in Vancouver and in the states), but so far, the Canadian actors I have cast have either already secured that permanent resident/green card status you mentioned or I have cast them in non-paying projects (like those shot under the SAG Short Film Agreement). So, I’m not actually sure whether a work visa would suffice for certain projects or if it’s just “easier” for folks to make a blanket statement about the toughest, highest-level requirements to be “safe.” Perhaps it’s like the whole CHSPE issue and how some filmmakers will just make it a blanket requirement that actors be 18 to play younger, rather than knowing and trusting that they’re free and clear to hire a 16 year old with a CHSPE and work that actor as an adult.

But because I have lack of experience in this area, why don’t I put that question to the readers? Readers? Have you any experience, here, that you’d like to share? Are there certain kinds of projects for which you need one level of papers and other kinds for which another set is required? What advice do you have for Rosanna?

I am thrilled, Rosanna, that you are working on building up credits, creating your demo reel, and gearing up for your move to LA. Very smart. And I wouldn’t worry too much about needing the paperwork before meeting with agents in LA. If an agent is eager to meet with you, take the meeting. Of course, be honest about what your working limitations might be, but remember that most actors meet with agents in anticipation of a professional relationship down the road, not because there is an instant opportunity to work together. Certainly, sometimes that is the case, but especially with actors who are visiting from other markets, most industry pros take meetings just to do a little “meet and greet” in preparation for the future, not to get right on that next job together.

If you are honest about your status, you can expect that an agent will let you know whether or not he would consider the meeting to be a waste of time. So, don’t worry too much about that.

Meanwhile, I’m hopeful that we’ll get lots of good advice and feedback about your working papers questions. I know I’ve written a letter before about a Canadian actor, in support of her application to qualify to work in the states. I know a few actors who have become declared “aliens of extraordinary ability” as well. Hopefully, readers will come through with some thoughts and tips for you (and if I don’t get a nice collection of email responses to this Your Turn, I’ll do a little outreach to some of those actors I know who have been in your shoes and see about building a future column around this very topic). Sound good?

Take care, and thanks for writing!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000856.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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