O-1 Visa: Nonimmigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement

O-1 VisaAn O-1 visa allows a person with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion pictures, or television to come to the United States and work here in his or her field of extraordinary ability or achievement.

The O-1 visa is categorized by subcategories based on the field for which the visa applicant is claiming his extraordinary ability or achievement.

  • O-1A visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.
  • O-1B visa is suitable for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts, motion picture or television industry.
  • O-2 visa is for those who will assist an O-1 visa holder artist or athlete with a performance.
  • O-3 visa is for dependents of O-1 and O-2 visa holders, such as a spouse and children.

O-1 Visa Eligibility

In order to be eligible for an O-1 visa, you as the beneficiary have to demonstrate extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion pictures, or television for the purpose of coming to the United States temporarily to work in your field of achievement.  This means that you must prove that you are “one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.”

If you claim your eligibility based on the field of arts, you must demonstrate that your skill and recognition are substantially more than ordinary professionals in your field.  This must be supported by documentation evidencing that you are renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

An O visa applicant claiming extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry must demonstrate that his skill and recognition are above those of the ordinary professionals in the field and that he is known as outstanding, notable, or leading.

O-1 Visa Application Process

The application process starts with submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to the USCIS.  Petitioner and beneficiary cannot be the same person, because O-1 visa cannot be obtained by self-petitioning and always requires a petitioner who is the potential employer of the visa holder — unlike in the case of the extraordinary ability immigrant visa category, for which the existence of potential employer is not necessary.

It is recommended to file Form I-129 with the USCIS at least 45 days prior to the start of the employment.  The following documents must also be submitted along with the petition:

  • Consultation, which is a written opinion of a person or a labor organization with expertise in the beneficiary’s field of ability. If such an organization or a group does not exist in the beneficiary’s field of expertise, he will need to substitute the Consultation with evidence of record.
  • Copy of the contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary which reflects the employment agreement between them and includes an offer and acceptance of the employment.
  • Itineraries, which detail dates and nature of the events or activities in the beneficiary’s field of ability.
  • Documents evidencing the existence of a U.S. Agent, which can be the employer of the beneficiary, a person authorized to act as an agent of the employer, or an agent authorized to represent both beneficiary and the employer.

O-1 Visa Evidentiary Criteria

An internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, is itself sufficient to demonstrate that the beneficiary meets the criteria.  Alternatively, the beneficiary must produce evidence of a minimum of three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards in the field of extraordinary ability or achievement
  • Membership in organizations or associations which require outstanding achievements for its members
  • Publications in professional or major trade journals, newspapers or other media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s achievement
  • Major scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions in the field of endeavor
  • Authorship of articles in professional journals or other major media in the field
  • A high salary or other remuneration demonstrated by contracts or other evidence
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or similar field of specialization
  • Employment in a critical or essential position for organizations and establishments with a distinguished reputation

O-2 Visa Evidentiary Criteria

An O-2 visa applicant must demonstrate that he or she has necessary skills and substantial experience to perform support services for the O-1 visa beneficiary.

For a motion picture or television production, an O-2 visa beneficiary should establish that the essential part of the production took place abroad and his involvement in the production, which will take place in the U.S., is essential to the successful completion of the work.

O-3 Visa Holders

Spouses and children under the age of 21 of O-1 and O-2 visa holders are eligible to apply for an O-3 visa.  O-3 visa holders are allowed to live and study in the U.S., but the cannot apply for employment authorization.

Please keep in mind that this nonimmigrant visa category is a document-intensive and complicated process.  Therefore, engagement of a qualified immigration attorney in this process is one of the most important factors to obtain a favorable decision from immigration services.

Should you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact me by submitting the form or by calling me at (917) 426-8227 or (248) 979-5390.  I accept clients from across the U.S. and around the world.  My law offices are conveniently located in Lower Manhattan, New York and in Troy, Michigan for in-person meetings.  For phone consultation, you can reach me from any part of the United States or abroad.