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Visa Information for International Applicants

International applicants should be aware of the following information and procedures for obtaining a visa for participation in Ensemble Connect prior to their audition. Please make sure to read the following information thoroughly before completing the online application.

International applicants who are not currently present or living in the US will need to obtain a B-1/B-2 visa at the United States Consulate in their country of residence for the purpose of participating in auditions held in the US. Please make sure to have the term “prospective student” annotated on the visa. Nationals from countries under the Visa Waiver Program are not required to have a B-1/B-2 visa to enter the United States.

International applicants who are currently in the US and are engaged in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) are eligible for admission in the program for the remainder of their current OPT F-1 status. International applicants who plan to apply for OPT upon graduation from their current school will be eligible for participation in the program upon the approval of their OPT application.

Please note that OPT is valid for only one calendar year. Accordingly, prior to the expiration of the OPT work authorization, you will need to petition and receive an O-1B visa in order to continue in the program. (Canadians have the option of applying for a P-2 visa which has a different process and set of requirements, so please be in touch, if applicable.)

Carnegie Hall agrees to act as the US petitioner on behalf of any international Ensemble Connect fellow who needs an O-1B visa and meets the applicable USCIS requirements. The process for applying for an O-1B visa requires many documents and can be quite time consuming and unpredictable. It will be the fellow’s responsibility to provide all of the documents. If an O-1B visa is required in the first year, the timeline will be quite short, and the fellow will be expected to assemble the necessary materials immediately upon acceptance to the fellowship. As in any immigration matter, Carnegie Hall cannot guarantee the approval of the O-1B petition. Nonetheless, continued participation in the program is contingent upon the fellow holding valid work authorization in the US.

During the live audition process, please be prepared to identify the specific documents you will be able to provide from the following list of materials required by USCIS to approve an O-1B visa petition. (Please note that while clear scans of documents are acceptable, USCIS will not accept photographs of documents nor will they review any on-line materials such as links, YouTube pages, or websites. Any and all materials will need to be printed and scanned.)

  • Awards
    • Written proof of all significant awards you have received or competitions you have won, in the format of articles, websites, official letters, or the physical award with your name clearly legible. Do not include any educational diplomas, degrees, scholarships, or certificates or any student prizes or awards. You may also be required to provide background materials on the significance or importance of any lesser known awards.
  • Programs
    • Copies of programs listing your name from your performances, concerts, and recitals around the world at major venues and/or with significant artists and ensembles. Do not include any programs that list you as a student, or which indicate that you were a member of a student orchestra.
  • Articles/Interviews/Reviews
    • Copies of all articles, interviews, and/or reviews regarding your performances, awards, and accomplishments and which specifically mention you by name. Please note that you will need to provide copies of the actual, physical articles or scans printed from the website of the publications. Quotes, summaries, and transcriptions will not be accepted. You will also need to be prepared to provide English translations of any non-English documents.
  • Recordings
    • Copies of all commercially released CDs or recordings on which you have performed, not including any performances that credit you as student or which were recorded with a student orchestra.
  • International Acclaim
    • Any additional documents establishing your international achievements, acclaim, and recognition.

In addition to the above, you will need to provide an itinerary of engagements at minimum one every three months of the duration of the O-1B visa along with some form of written confirmation for each engagement. These engagements must be outside of Ensemble Connect. You will also need to provide expert letters from an expert in the field attesting to your achievements demonstrated through the materials listed above.

Carnegie Hall, if petitioning, will cover all filing fees including the union consultation fee, USCIS filing fee, USCIS premium processing fee, and mailing costs. The fellow is responsible for any costs incurred at a United States Consulate.

Once USCIS has approved the O-1B visa petition, but before the fellow can enter the US in O-status, he/she is responsible for scheduling an in-person interview at a United States Consulate, typically in his/her home country, in order to receive the visa within his/her passport.

The entire process—starting with collecting the documentation and ending with receiving the physical visa—will take several months to complete.

Ensemble Connect Fellows receive a stipend for the duration of the program. Receiving the funds is contingent upon successfully applying for a United States Social Security Number (SSN). Fellows can apply for the SSN and card 10 days after their arrival in the US or 10 days after the official start date on the O-1B visa, whichever occurs first. After submitting the application, it usually takes 1–2 weeks to receive a SSN and card. Unless your country has a tax treaty with the United States, you will have to pay federal income tax, which will be deducted from your stipend check. You will also have to file a US federal tax return.

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