Importing the Flawless Girl

37 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2011 Last revised: 10 May 2012

See all articles by Kit Johnson

Kit Johnson

University of Oklahoma - College of Law

Date Written: May 12, 2011


Fashion model visas have never been the subject scholarly treatment, much less a focused analysis. In fact, they have been the subject of considerable confusion in Congress and have become a polarizing issue in public debate. Clarity is important, because the granting of visas to fashion models has an undeniably positive economic impact on a major U.S. industry. Moreover, fashion model visas have the unique potential to serve as levers to affect important aspects of social policy and to address public health concerns.

This paper begins by examining what it takes to be a fashion model and why the U.S. fashion industry wants and needs foreign models. I then discuss the business of modeling including, in particular, what models do and how they are paid. Next, I take an in-depth look at the visa system for fashion models, examining the congressional history behind current law. I also look at congressional efforts to change that law, efforts that have been pilloried despite the substantial economic benefit at stake.

Taking this into account, I examine ways in which fashion model visas could be changed. I propose creating a new visa to capture the economic benefits of allowing one category of fashion models easy entry into the United States. I also propose modifying the regulations governing visas for another category of fashion models in order to address social ills and health problems stemming from anorexia and abuse. Doing so would help reform aspects of the modeling industry that have been the consistent subject of attack. Such restrictions would not only benefit the foreign models themselves, but could effect positive change for U.S. models and the wider public.

Keywords: immigration, fashion, models, visas, legislation

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Kit, Importing the Flawless Girl (May 12, 2011). Nevada Law Journal, Vol. 12, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Kit Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma - College of Law ( email )

300 Timberdell Road
Norman, OK 73019
United States


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