Beauty and the Beast: Disney's Use of the Q and H-1B Visas

25 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2018

See all articles by Kit Johnson

Kit Johnson

University of Oklahoma - College of Law

Date Written: October 25, 2018


The Walt Disney Company made national headlines in 2015 when its former information-technology employees went public with the news that they had been fired and asked to train their replacements: foreign workers holding H-1B visas. Disney’s move was spotlighted during the 2016 presidential campaign as then-candidate Donald Trump railed against Disney’s use of H-1B visas to employ people, “imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay.”

What few appreciate is that Disney is not new to working the immigration laws to its advantage. Just at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida, the company has employed student workers on J visas, vocational students on M visas, intra-company transferees from other parks around the world on L visas, Walt Disney World alumni on short-term H-2B visas, trainees on H-3 visas, and treaty investors on E-2 visas. Disney even led a lobbying effort to create a new visa category uniquely applicable to overseas workers staffing its Epcot theme park’s World Showcase attractions – the Q visa.

This Article takes a particular look at two Disney visa stories. Part I examines the company’s successful below-the-radar creation of the Q visa. Part II considers the public-relations fiasco that followed the firing of Disney IT workers and their replacement with H-1B visa-holders. Thinking about these two stories side-by-side pushes us to confront at least two questions: first, how do we feel about corporate users of the immigration system tailoring that system to fit their own needs? And second, how do we feel about corporate users of the immigration system making use of that system to replace U.S. workers with noncitizen labor?

Keywords: law, immigration, Disney

JEL Classification: K1, K37

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Kit, Beauty and the Beast: Disney's Use of the Q and H-1B Visas (October 25, 2018). 11 NYU Journal of Law & Liberty 915 (2018), 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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