O-1 Visa

Overview/Description

The O-1 visa is for individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.

There are several categories of O Visas:

  • O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (excluding the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
  • O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
  • O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance.
  • O-3: individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s

The two main categories O-1A & O-1B have different criteria that are used to asses a potential applicant and the O-1A is the most difficult visa to obtain.

Requirements/Eligibility

The O-1A visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics and is set aside for people who have risen to the top of their profession.  Additionally, these persons must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in their area of extraordinary ability.

Evidence that the beneficiary has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation in the arts, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility (this exception does not apply to the motion picture or television industry).

The O-1B visa is for foreign nationals (aliens) who have demonstrated extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.  Additionally, these persons must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in their area of extraordinary ability.   For the arts, the alien must show that he has acquired “distinction” in his artistic field.
”Distinction” means a high level of achievement as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is described as prominent, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

The alien may establish qualification through evidence of nomination or receipt of a major, national or international recognized award such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award. In absence of such an award one can establish himself as a qualifying alien through at least three of the following types of evidence:

  • Having been or will be performing a lead or starring role in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation (as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, press releases, publications contracts, or endorsements);
  • Critical reviews or other published material in professional or major trade publication or in the major media by or about the alien which show that the alien has achieved national or international recognition or achievements;
  • Evidence of performance in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations;
  • Evidence of a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales.
  • Evidence of significant recognition for achievements form organizations, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field;
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others; and
  • Other comparable evidence.

Application Process

This visa does not permit self petitioning and as such, the petitioner (the company) must file Form I-129 and list the applicant as a beneficiary.  The petition may not be filed more than one year before the actual need for the alien’s services.  In addition, a written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the group with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability is required.

How long does the Visa last for?

Initially approved for up to 3 years and can be renewed in one-year increments.

How are Family Members Treated?

A spouse & children under the age of 21 can apply for an O-3 visa but may not work in the United States.  They may however, engage in full or part time study on an O-3 visa.

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Common Questions & Answers

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Fees

Fee schedule