A talent scout working out of the Los Angeles area has been charged with 32 misdemeanor counts for allegedly violating the Immigration Consultant Act. If convicted, the man could face up to one year in jail for each count, for a total potential sentence of 32 years.

The man is charged with cheating aspiring, foreign actors out of thousands of dollars, allegedly by promising them a special type of employment immigration visa available to certain entertainment professionals.

Known as the O-1, the visa allows individuals who qualify with an extraordinary ability to come to the United States for up to 3 years, with the possibility of extension. Artists and entertainers are more commonly associated with this visa type.

However, immigration authorities state that the O-1 visa is intended for established entertainment professionals with actual work awaiting them in the United States, rather than aspiring hopefuls. In this case, the man’s victims did not have actual employment already lined up in the United States.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 12,208 were approved in 2011, up from 9,478 in 2006. There is also no cap on the number of O-1s that can be awarded each year.

Notably, a growing number of foreign business and technology professionals have also turned to the O-1 visa in recent years. Of course, foreign investors can also follow the traditional route and apply for an EB-5 visa, although its requirements are steep: a capital investment of at least $500,000 and creation of at least 10 full-time jobs for American workers. For younger entrepreneurs without that personal wealth or investment power, however, the O-1 is a more viable option.

If you are considering applying for an investment-based or employment-based visa, an attorney can advise you of the different categories and regulations specific to each. Each application requires its own evidentiary showing. An attorney can ensure you present your strongest application.

Source: Hollywood Reporter, Canadian Talent Consultant Charged in Alleged Actor Visa Scam,” Jonathan Handel, Jan. 10, 2013