O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa

The O-1A visa is available for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. The O-1B visa is available for individuals in motion picture or TV production. Both classifications are temporary in nature and reserved for very accomplished individuals.

General Requirements for the O Visa

O-1A individuals in the sciences, education, business, or athletics must prove their extraordinary ability has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, which may be demonstrated by either receipt of a major internationally recognized award, or by showing at least 3 the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards;
  • Membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement;
  • Published materials about the individual in professional or major trade publication;
  • Judgment of the work of others;
  • Original scientific or scholarly work of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly work;
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity at an organization with a distinguished reputation; or
  • Has commanded or will command a high salary in relation to others in the field.

O-1A artists must show that they are distinguished, meaning they have a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.

O-1B individuals must prove they have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement that have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation. The individual must be outstanding, notable, and a leader in the field.

The individual must seek to enter the United States for the purpose of continuing work in the area of extraordinary ability or achievement, but there is no requirement that the actual position requires a person of O-1 caliber.

O-2 visas are available for persons accompanying an assisting an O-1A artist or athlete, but the O-2 applicant must prove they are an integral part of the performance/event, have critical skill and experience that cannot be performed by other individuals, and have a foreign residence that they have no intention of abandoning.

Derivative Benefits and Time Limits

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany the principal O visa holder to the United States in O-3 status. However, O-3’s may not accept employment.

The admission times for O-1 beneficiaries vary based upon the purpose for which they intend to enter the United States. However, the Attorney General may grant O-1 status for up to 3 years. Further, O-1 status can be continually renewed and does not have a cap.

Procedure

A U.S. employer must file an I-129 petition on behalf of an O visa seeker. In certain circumstances where the individual will be working for multiple employers or at multiple events, an agent may petition on behalf of the individual.

Upon approval of the I-129 petition, the beneficiary may change their status (if within the United States) or seek a visa at the appropriate consulate (if abroad).

O-1 visa holders have the benefit of “dual intent” and may seek permanent residency without jeopardizing their O-1 status.

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