O-1 Visa for Those with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The United States has an interest in attracting the brightest and most accomplished to its country and the main visa category that allows these extraordinary individuals to live and work in the US is the O-1A or O-1B visa categories.

The O-1A visa category is for those who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics and can demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim.

A person may prove sustained national or international acclaim in the sciences, education, business or athletics by receipt of a major internationally recognized award such as the Nobel Prize, OR documenting at least three of the following: (1) receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards; (2) membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement; (3) published materials about the applicant in professional or major trade publications; (4) judgment of the work of others; (5) original scientific or scholarly work of major significance in the field; (6) evidence of authorship of scholarly work; (7) evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity at an organization with a distinguished reputation; or (8) has commanded or will command a high salary in relation to others in the field.

To demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim in the arts, a person must prove prominence in the field 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 by documenting at least three of the following: (1) lead in production having a distinguished reputation; (2) critical reviews in major newspapers or trade journals; (3) lead for organization that has a distinguished reputation; (4) record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes; (5) significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field; or (6) has commanded or will command a high salary.

The O-1B visa category is for those working in the motion picture or television production industry who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.

The requirements to show extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television production industries are similar to those described above for the arts, but in general, a person will need to meet a higher standard in order to show extraordinary achievement. In addition, to demonstrate extraordinary achievement, an applicant needs to show that he or she has received or been nominated for significant national or international awards such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award OR three of the following: (1) performed or 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; (2) achieved national or internal recognition for achievements; (3) performed or will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; (4) a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes; (5) received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field; and (6) a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field.

A person applying for an O-1 visa must be entering the US to continue in his or her field of work, but it is not required to show that the position he or she will be working in requires someone to have extraordinary ability or achievement.

Procedure to Obtain an O-1A or O-1B visa

There are three steps to obtaining an O-1 visa:

    • 1. Consultation: Obtain a written advisory opinion from the appropriate union and management group for those working in the television or film production industries or for all other fields a written advisory opinion from an appropriate union. The consultation requirement may be waived if it is demonstrated that no appropriate union exists.
    • 2. O-1 Petition: filing with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The petition must contain the written advisory opinion and evidence that will demonstrate that the beneficiary meets the requirements of extraordinary ability or achievement and an itinerary of work locations if the applicant will work in multiple locations in the US.

      If there are multiple US employers each employer must file separately or one agent may petition for the entire itinerary as long as petition includes the contracts between each employer and the beneficiary and the agent explains the terms and conditions of the employment and provides any required documentation.

    • 3. Visa Application: Once the petition is approved, then the applicant may apply for an O-1 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate outside the US.

Self-Employment and the O-1 Visa

A person must be going to the US for a defined period or for specific events and may not self-petition for an O-1 visa nor may this visa category be used for speculative or freelance employment.

The O-2 Visa for Assistants to O-1 Artists or Athletes

The O-2 visa category is for those who need to accompany and assist the O-1 Artist or Athlete in the US. The O-2 visa applicant must show that he or she is integral to the actual performance, has critical skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder that are not of a general nature and which cannot be performed by other individuals.

In addition, those applying for an O-2 visa to accompany an O-1 visa holder in the motion picture or television production industry, the person must show that he or she possesses critical skills and experience which are not general and which are based on a pre-existing long-standing working relationship and that he or she has a foreign residence which he or she has no intention of abandoning.

Family Members Accompanying the O-1 Visa Holder

The O-3 visa category is for spouses and children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany the O-1 visa holder to the US.