This section is for you wonderful actors from foreign countries, who are considering testing the waters in Hollywood. You may very well be fully aware of what we’re about to say, but perhaps you should read this anyway.
It has never been easy to begin a career of any type in the United States unless you have the proper work documents. Since 9/11, it has become next to impossible to enter the United States with the intention of working, no matter which country you’re coming from. Between our government’s rigid restrictions and those of your homeland, it can take literally years to obtain the proper clearances.
Actors face additional hurdles, unless they are already world-famous (no! just being a “star” in your own country does not guarantee entry here!). Proving that you are going to be able to support yourself (and not become a burden on us!) is one of those hurdles.
You must come here with a proficiency in English, first of all. The only language other than English in which you can possibly hope to make a living is, of course, Spanish, since Telemundo and Televisa have become major Spanish-language networks in the U.S. There are a handful of stations that cater to other nationalities, such as Japanese, Korean, Armenian, etc., but they provide very, very limited opportunities to work. So, even if you have an accent in English (and who doesn’t?!), you must feel comfortable enough to perform in the language of this country.
We won’t pretend to know all of the rules and regulations that will inhibit your ability to work here. It’s up to you to investigate that yourself, before leaving home. There is nothing worse than knowing that you are in this country illegally, just waiting for our immigration service to come knocking on your door. But we do have one suggestion:
There are a number of excellent acting schools in Hollywood that cater to foreign students. They can help their students obtain certain types of work visas, at least for part-time work. Here are links to two of the oldest:
THEATRE OF ARTS/ACT HOLLYWOOD www.acthollywood.com
LEE STRASBERG INSTITUTE www.strasberg.com
You should also check on a couple of our universities that have great theater arts departments: U.C.L.A., U.S.C., LOYOLA, CHAPMAN and CAL ARTS.
You may have heard that if a movie studio hires you for a role in a film, they can sponsor you for up to a year. That is true. What you may not have heard is that this type of temporary sponsorship limits you to only working for that particular studio during that one year period. You may also have heard that if an agency takes you on as a client, they might be willing to sponsor you, too. Don’t count on that happening – it’s easier said than done.
The bottom line to all of this is: Be very careful before attempting to make a move to Hollywood. Everything that we have said throughout this website applies to you, plus the added burden of being a stranger in this very foreign land.
Bon chance! Buena suerte! Viel Glück! Good luck!