A composer in South America emailed me and asked for advice on getting a visa to the US so he can pursue becoming a working composer in Los Angeles. I told him I’d write a response on the blog.
Let me first alert readers: I’m no expert on getting US visas. My only experience is with my wife’s visa (she is a Russian citizen). So unless your strategy is to marry an American, I’m not the first person to ask. 😉
Other than that, my advice is: separate getting the visa from your desire to work as a composer. The most important thing is to come to LA and start getting to know people in town. So focus on getting the visa first. Then worry about getting work in LA.
Your chances for an H1-B are better with bigger corporations. You will have to consider positions that are non-composery. But pick a place where your coworkers are people you might work with in the future. Video game studios are a natural fit. For instance, Michael Giacchino was in marketing at Dreamworks Interactive and got his break when he made a demo in his off-hours for a Jurassic Park game they were releasing.
Then there are academic programs at UCLA and USC. You don’t have to get into the film or music grad programs even. It can be business. Just get an F-1, get here, spend all your spare time on your music and networking, and work out a strategy to stay here after you finish school.
If you’re serious about being a working composer, these won’t be diversions, they’ll be ways around an obstacle.