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November 5, 2023

"The main thing is not to stop": the stylist's path to a talent visa

Our hero today is Samvel Harutyunyan, a hair stylist and O-1 visa holder.

He moved to the US with his family in 2023. In Russia, Samvel was a celebrity hair stylist, worked on a famous makeover show "Fashion Verdict", collaborated with modeling agencies. 

Together we discuss how the process of working on the case look like and what difficulties Samvel dealt with on the way to his talent visa.

Why the U.S.?

A colleague of mine moved to New York on a talent visa. When I heard about this opportunity, I wanted to try it too. The second option was Spain - my wife and I like that country, but compared to the States, the beauty industry there is not as developed and not as well paid. In the end we decided on Los Angeles, plus the weather is gorgeous here.

Why the O-1 Visa?

I had a huge case, over a thousand pages. They say you can apply for an H-1B with the case like that. But it takes longer, so I chose O-1. It has one more plus: you can choose which consulate you want to apply to. And for an interview for H-1B, Russians have to go to Poland, which is not very convenient in the current circumstances. In addition, there are fewer rejections for the O-1.

Did you apply on your own or with a lawyer?

I did not even consider the option of applying on my own. It was difficult for me even with a lawyer, I can't imagine how it would be without one. At first I thought that the lawyer would take care of everything. But it turned out that it was me who had to solve the issue of publications, translate documents, deal with the website, and so on. The lawyer has a different task: to explain what needs to be done for the case, to gather all the documents together, to write the petition. I believe that everyone should do their own thing, so to be honest I wanted to delegate the rest to someone else too.

How long did it take to get your visa?

The interview took me three minutes, and approval came three days later. But it took me three years to prepare the case. There are guys who try to get everything in a month or two. It was a mystery to me. At the time, I didn't know that there were special agencies that help you build a case and even boost up your public profile. Had I found out earlier, everything would have gone much faster and cheaper.

What difficulties did you encounter in the process?

Overall, the process was smooth. Long, but smooth. For example, I never even received a request for additional information (RFE). Although there were certain difficulties, of course.

It was a pain to get everything together. The attorneys, after the beginning of all the events, of course, were very busy. They took a long time to respond, one letter sometimes took months. Then, of course, the lawyers got assistants, and it became easier. However, during all three years that I was dealing with the case, I had no understanding of what stage I was at: was everything just beginning or had I already passed the halfway point or was the case almost ready to be filed? It wasn’t great.

Plus difficulties with collecting documents for the case - I had publications in magazines, I had an offer from an employer (I was already working with a modeling agency that had branches in Moscow, Dubai and New York, they were my petitioner), but it was not enough. I had to personally go through different media and pitch myself to get publications. This is also expensive and time-consuming, so I would have been better off going to a PR company.

Was it worth it?

I was very inspired by working on the case. Even if I didn't get a visa in the end, it  would still be a winning situation for me – I got noticed more and was invited to take part in interesting projects. And while I was gathering evidence for the visa, I realized how cool I am. My friends and I even joked that our therapy session would again be postponed.

Now we're living in L.A. I'm planning on going to Hollywood. So far I'm working with a premium salon, but I'm not going to work only at a salon – I need interesting projects.

Advice for those who want to apply for a talent visa?

Anything is possible, the main thing is to never give up. Sometimes it will seem that the case is ready, you will come to a lawyer and it will turn out that you need something else. Perhaps there will be some other difficulties, but remember that everything is doable.

And do not give up the idea because of fear of prejudice – there are no refusals because of citizenship.

Learn your chances or book a free consultation with our team to learn more about the O-1 visa.

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