The O-1 Visa is for people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements (O-1A). You may also be eligible if you possess extraordinary ability in the arts or have attained extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry (O-1B) to enter the U.S. for a temporary period of time to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. The spectrum of eligible individuals is broad and can be appropriate for such diverse applicants as cutting-edge scientific researchers, visionary corporate executives, actors and tennis pros, and chefs.
The O-1 Visa must be petitioned by a U.S. employer, U.S. agent or foreign employer through a U.S. agent and the alien must be coming to the United States to perform services relating to an event or events. Events are such activities as a film or television production, music recording or performance, scientific project, conference, convention, lecture series, tour, exhibit, business project or engagement. A group of related activities may also be considered to be an event.
For an O-1A visa, you must demonstrate your extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim. In the field of science, education, business, or athletics, the applicant has attained a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of a small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. The individual must be seeking to enter the US for purposes of continuing the type of same or similar work.
In the field of art, extraordinary ability means “a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that encountered.” In this area the petitioner must prove that the artist is prominent in his/her field of endeavor.
For an O-1B visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and/ or television productions by a very high level record of achievement, and you must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary achievement. Extraordinary achievement is a degree of skill and recognition significantly above the ordinary; outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television industry.
Extraordinary Ability in Science, Education, Business or Athletics
The beneficiary must prove sustained national or international acclaim by receipt of a major internationally recognized award such as the Nobel Prize, or by providing documentation of at least 3 of the following:
- Recipient of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
- Membership in associations in the field, which require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts;
- Published materials in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien’s work in the field;
- Evidence that the beneficiary’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field;
- Evidence of Original scientific or scholarly work of original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
- Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
- Evidence that the applicant has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments with a distinguished reputation;
- Evidence that the applicant has commanded or will command a high salary.
Extraordinary Ability and Achievement in the Arts and the Motion Picture and/or Television Industry
For people of extraordinary ability in the motion picture and television industries, a record of extraordinary achievement must be demonstrated. In this case, a very high level of accomplishment is required to a degree of recognition that is “significantly higher than average, recognized as outstanding, notable or leading.”
The beneficiary must prove prominence in the field as demonstrated by being nominated for or the recipient of a significant international or national award or prize, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award, or can document at least 3 of the following:
- Evidence that the alien has 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
- Evidence that the alien has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
- Evidence that the alien has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials
- Evidence that the alien has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications
- Evidence that the alien has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged
- Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.
- If the criteria listed above do not readily apply to the alien’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility.
Merely providing three sources of evidence does not necessarily establish that the foreign national possesses extraordinary ability. USCIS considers the quality of the evidence provided and not just whether the minimum amount of documentation has been submitted.
In addition to the above, an advisory opinion from a peer group, labor or management organization in the field is required. A peer group is a group or organization comprised of practitioners in the applicant’s occupation of similar standing that is governed by such practitioners. These groups include collective bargaining representatives.
As an O-1 nonimmigrant, you may be admitted to the United States for the validity period of the petition, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends. You may only engage in employment during the validity period of the petition. The maximum initial period of stay is for 3 years, and can be extended indefinitely as long as either extension of increments of up to 1 year or new applications with current evidence of the applicant’s extraordinary ability are submitted.
Family of O-1 Holders
Spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa, subject to the same period of admission and limitations as the O-1 nonimmigrant. They may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may engage in full or part time study on an O-3 visa.