Breaking Barriers: The All-Woman Team Revolutionizing Immigration Law for Tattoo Artists


Borders no longer have to be a barrier to creativity and collaboration. In the heart of New York City, a small, all-woman team is making big waves in the tattoo and legal industries. Tattoo Visa, led by Katia Teirstein, is not your typical law firm. Dedicated to O-1 visas and EB-1 Extraordinary Ability green cards, they cater exclusively to tattoo artists, offering a personalized and comprehensive approach to immigration law.

Originally from Seattle, Katia pursued a degree in Vietnamese history before attending law school in New York City, and eventually finding her niche in immigration law. What began as a general law practice evolved into Tattoo Visa, thanks to a chance encounter ten years ago with renowned tattoo artist Paul Booth, who became her first client in the tattoo industry when she began doing O-1 visas for the international artists at his studio, Last Rites. “I was pretty involved in the art space at that time though, so I was doing a lot of artist visas for fine artists, fashion, film, and music. It happened organically– but it took about two years until we were almost exclusively working with tattoo artists,” explains Katia.


What sets Tattoo Visa apart is not just their expertise in immigration law but also their deep understanding of the tattoo industry. Katia and her team, which includes her twin sister Jasmine and older sister Annie as well as their good friends Amilla, Amanda, and Nikita, immerse themselves in the world of tattooing, attending conventions and building relationships with artists, brands, publications, and studios. The entire team are tattoo collectors, and their insider knowledge allows them to craft compelling visa applications that showcase the extraordinary talent and achievements of their clients. 

Tattoo Visa’s success speaks for itself. With a caseload of anywhere between 150 to 250 cases at any given time, they have never had a denial on the merits of a case. You read that correctly – so far, they have a perfect record. “I think it comes from knowing the industry and being charged with demonstrating the achievements of the industry,” says Katia. “If you know an industry inside and out, you’re able to demonstrate that more effectively. Whereas another attorney might know immigration regulations but not necessarily know about tattoo events or publications specifically, what it means to be sponsored, or what it means to have a collaboration with a brand. And we’re able to present those achievements in a way within the regulations that, rightfully, looks really impressive to immigration.” Their meticulous approach to documenting artists’ achievements and their dedication to each client’s success have earned them a reputation for excellence in the industry. 

Despite working in male-dominated industries- both tattoos and law- Katia embraces the power of women in leadership. “I’ll be real,” she says. “Half of the team is my sisters, which sounds like nepotism, but it’s not. They’re very, very good at their jobs. Our family is just us three girls and we work really well together. My sisters are also just super bright people.” While she doesn’t exclusively hire women, she appreciates the tenacity and empathetic approach women bring to their work, qualities that are essential when dealing with the life-changing implications of immigration law. “There’s something powerful in women’s ability to both be nurturing and compassionate, but also detail-oriented and collaborative, which in my opinion is all essential to practicing immigration. You do have to examine cases from both the perspective of big-picture and the more nuanced details, while shouldering the burden that these cases are being attached to real people who will be greatly impacted by the outcome. This requires a caring eye and adaptability, and I think that women especially can bring this to the profession. Generally, women are also badasses with grit and resilience. So, you know, if you need something done despite all odds and with an impossible workload, ask a woman to do it.” 


One of the biggest misconceptions about Tattoo Visa’s work is the amount of time and effort that goes into each case. Far from simply printing documents and submitting them, Katia and her team meticulously curate each application, building a comprehensive portfolio of evidence that showcases the artist’s talent and accomplishments. Their dedication to transparency and communication led them to develop and release the Tattoo Visa app, which allows clients to track the progress of their case and communicate with the team easily. “All of our cases now happen exclusively on the Tattoo Visa app. There, all the documents are requested, including automized reminders to complete specific tasks. It also has WhatsApp-style messaging and video meeting features, so there is a steady stream of comments and communication. The ability for a client to have nearly constant communication and feedback with our law firm was really important to us when we started this project because at our volume, other methods of communication just didn’t provide high standards of customer service. The other thing that was pretty cool is the transparency this gives our clients about where his or her case is in the pipeline. The app now provides a timeline with different tasks assigned to everybody, including our team, the artist, their manager if they have one, the petitioner, the studio where they’re going to be working. Everybody is charged with these tasks and you can see it progress in stages literally from conception, intake, document collection and review, all the way to submitting the application, interviewing at the embassy, and uploading the O-1 stamp from the passport at the end of the process. We even wrote guidebooks with information about getting social security numbers, health insurance, and all of those kinds of things to provide assistance that most artists require once here in the United States unrelated to their immigration application,” Katia explains.

With their unwavering dedication to their clients and their pioneering spirit, Katia and her team at Tattoo Visa are breaking down barriers and empowering artists to pursue their passion wherever it may take them. “This is truly the best part – watching our clients pursue their dreams in the United States. This industry is tough for more reasons than I can articulate. Immigration can be a frustrating grind. But our clients are how we fuel that fire. We are inspired and reinvigorated literally every day we come to work.”

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