O-1 Extraordinary Ability

Employment-Based Immigration

Summary

The O-1 visa allows outstanding, foreign-born workers in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to be legally employed in the United States for a short-term. There are two types of O-1 visas (O-1A and O-1B) covering specific industries permitted under the general “O” visa category.

What Is The O-1 Visa?

The O-1 visa allows outstanding, foreign-born workers in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to be legally employed in the United States for a short-term. There are two types of O-1 visas (O-1A and O-1B) covering specific industries permitted under the general “O” visa category.

The “O” visa category is commonly referred to by its classifications in the following subcategories:

  • O-1A visa: people with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics
  • O-1B visa: people with an extraordinary ability in the arts, motion picture, or television
  • O-2 visa: members of the integral support staff of O-1A or O-1B individuals
  • O-3 visa: the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 individuals

(References to further distinctions: USCIS O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement, Immigration and Nationality Act at I.N.A. § 101(a) (15)(O), or the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o)(1)(ii)(A)(1).)

How Long Does The O-1 Visa Last?

The O-1 visa permits you to stay and work for up to 3 years in the U.S. After it expires, you can apply for an extension which will grant you an additional stay for 1 year. There is no limit to the number of extensions, so the length of O-1 visa stays vary.

Your length of stay can also be determined by the agreement with your employer or employment status. If you are terminated for reasons other than voluntary resignation, your employer must pay for the reasonable cost of your return transportation to your home country.

How Do I Qualify For An O-1 Visa?

To qualify for an O-1 Visa, you must:

  • Have a job offer from a U.S. agent or sponsor to work in your acclaimed field
  • Perform your work in your acclaimed field while temporarily residing in the U.S.
  • Demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
  • Be recognized nationally or internationally in your field, or, in the case of motion pictures or television, exhibit a record of extraordinary achievement

Note that you can only qualify as an individual and not if you belong to a group or team. For example, if you are a member of a Premier League champion football team in Europe, you do not qualify solely based on your organization’s achievements.

How Do I Apply For An O-1 Visa?

If you believe you are eligible, your prospective U.S. employer will have to file the petition (Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf. In addition, they have to submit the documentation of your job offer along with the required evidence that demonstrates your extraordinary ability (see “How is Extraordinary Ability Defined?” below).

In some cases, you may need a written advisory opinion from a peer group or a person designated by the group with expertise in your specialized field. Consult an immigration attorney to find out exactly what documents you or your employer will need to file the petition.

How Is Extraordinary Ability Defined?

Generally, you must have received national or international recognition for your work in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Let’s explore the definition of “Extraordinary Ability” for the O-1A and O1B visa classifications.

O-1A: Extraordinary Ability In Science, Education, Business, Or Athletics

The O-1A visa standards for extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics require that you are nationally or internationally known in your field as a top expert. An example of this recognition could include receiving a Nobel Peace Prize or an Olympic gold medal. Otherwise, your petitioner can demonstrate your acclaim by submitting evidence in at least three of the following criteria in your field of expertise:

  • Attained a national or international award for excellence
  • Earned membership through evaluation by internationally recognized experts to an association or organization that requires outstanding achievements to be a member
  • Have been the subject of articles published in major media, including professional or major trade publications or websites
  • Contributed original scientific, scholarly, or business-related knowledge or research
  • Authored articles published in major media, including professional or major trade publications or websites
  • Earned or are earning a high salary proven by contracts or other reliable evidence
  • Participated in a panel of judges to evaluate the work of other experts
  • Been employed as a critical or essential member of an an organization with a distinguished reputation

If these criteria do not directly apply to your occupation, your U.S. employer may present evidence more relevant to your case. Additionally, the petitioner should explain why the criteria does not apply to you.

O-1B: Extraordinary Ability In The Arts

The O-1B visa standards for extraordinary ability in the arts, motion picture, or television require that you have proof of receiving national or international awards/prizes in your field. For example, receiving an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or Tony would meet the criteria. Alternatively, your petitioner can demonstrate your acclaim by submitting documentation in at least three of the following criteria in your field of expertise:

  • Performed or will perform services as a lead or starring role in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as proven by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as proven by critical reviews in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • Attained a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as proven by title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other job-related achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts
  • Earned or are earning a high salary proven by contracts or other reliable evidence

As with the O-1A visa, if the above criteria does not directly apply to you, your petitioner may supply comparable evidence and detail why it was used.

What Is The O-2 Visa?

The O-2 visa allows foreign-born workers to be temporarily employed in the United States with the requirement that they are providing essential and integral support to an extraordinary O-1 worker. Thus, if you are an O-2 visa applicant, your visa status is somewhat dependent on the O-1 visa holder. You cannot work in the U.S. legally without continuing to provide essential support to the O-1 individual.

How Long Does The O-2 Visa Last?

Similar to the O-1 visa, you can stay up to 3 years with an approved application and extend your stay every year. If you have specific timeframes written in your agreement with your employer, are terminated or resign from your position, your length of stay could be less than 3 years.

How Do I Apply For An O-2 Visa?

Your prospective U.S. employer will file the petition (Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf. In addition, they have to submit documentation of the following:

  • Provide evidence to demonstrate your intention to return to your home country
  • Submit an agreement between you and the O-1 visa holder that details your current essentiality, critical skills, and experience
  • Submit evidence of pre- and post-production experience (in the case of motion picture or television)
  • Work in the capacity of your petitioned roles and duties, even if you possess the skills to work for other jobs

Each country may have specific requirements for immigration, so consult a reputable immigration attorney to make sure you are well-informed.

What Is The O-3 Visa?

The O-3 visa allows the dependents or immediate family members of O-1 and O-2 visa holders to reside together in the United States. Note that this visa does not permit O-3 visa holders to work in the U.S. but they may study at any U.S. educational institution or take short international trips.

How Do I Apply For An O-3 Visa?

Your O-1 or O-2 spouse’s U.S. employer will file the petition (Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf. You must be accompanying the O-1 visa holder and be a direct relative. In addition, your petitioner will have to submit the following documents for your application:

  • Marriage certificate to the O-1 or O-2 visa holder
  • Birth certificates of the children
  • Copies of the O-1 or O-2 visa holder’s passport

We highly recommend you consult an attorney to thoroughly cover all the requirements for your family’s case.

Next Steps

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by the processes and documents needed to move forward with an O-1, O-2, or O-3 visa. Requirements may be different based on what country you are immigrating from and your specific set of circumstances. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to ensure that you are well equipped to receive the O visas. We’ve handled immigration cases for nearly 40 years and are happy to bring our expansive experience to your case.

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