The O-1 Visa Explained

 

The O-1 visa enables certain foreign nationals who either possess extraordinary ability or have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement to come to the United States. This blog will discuss important aspects of the O-1 visa.

 

Overview of O-1 Visas

 

There are two categories of O-1 visas – the O-1A visa and the O-1B visa. The O-1A visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics. The O-1B visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture or television industry.

 

O-1A Visa – Eligibility Requirements

 

For purposes of the O-1A visa, extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field. To be eligible for an O-1A visa, you must establish that:

  • Your extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim;
  • Your achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation; and
  • You are coming to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

 

O-1A Visa – Supporting Documentation

 

To have a successful O-1A visa petition, you must include evidence that you have received a major internationally recognized award (such as the Nobel Prize) or at least three of the following forms of evidence (or comparable evidence):

  • Documentation of your receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Documentation of your membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about you, relating to your work in the field for which classification is sought;
  • Evidence of your participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought;
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Evidence that you have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or
  • Evidence that you have either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services.

O-1B Visa – Eligibility Requirements

 

The eligibility requirements for an O-1B visa vary depending on what is the specific basis for your O-1B visa petition.

 

If you file for an O-1B visa based on extraordinary ability in the field of arts, extraordinary ability means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts, as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. In addition, to be eligible for an O-1B visa based on extraordinary ability in the field of arts, you generally must establish the same points as described above at the end of the section, “O-1A Visa – Eligibility Requirements” (except applicable to “the arts”, instead of “the sciences, education, business, or athletics”).

 

If you file for an O-1B visa based on extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, extraordinary achievement is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field. You also must demonstrate that you are coming to the United States to continue to work in motion picture or television productions.

 

O-1B Visa – Supporting Documentation

 

For a successful O-1B visa petition based on either extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, you must include evidence that you have received, or been nominated for, a significant national or international award or prize in the particular field (such as an Academy

 

Award, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award) or at least three of the following forms of evidence (or comparable evidence):

  • Evidence that you have performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
  • Evidence that you have achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about you;
  • Evidence that you have 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;
  • Evidence that you have 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 you have received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field; or
  • Evidence that you have either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field.

Key Distinctions Between O-1 Visas and EB-1A Green Cards

 

Another United States immigration benefit available to foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability is the EB-1A green card. There are two key distinctions between O-1 visas and EB-1A green cards. First, while you generally need a United States sponsor for an O-1 visa, you do not need such a sponsor, and can self-petition, for an EB-1A green card. Second, as a green card, the EB-1A green card enables a foreign national with extraordinary ability to permanently live and work in the United States. An O-1 visa, on the other hand, only enables a qualifying foreign national to live and work in the United States for a temporary period of time.

 

Duration of Stay Under an O-1 Visa

 

With an O-1 visa, you can initially stay in the United States for the duration of the event or activity that supports issuance of the O-1 visa for up to a period of no longer than three years.  Your stay in the United States then can be extended for additional periods of one year at a time if necessary for you to continue or complete the event or activity that supported the issuance of the O-1 visa.

 

Visas for Persons Assisting and Family Members of O-1 Visa Holders

 

Certain persons who provide essential assistance and help to an O-1 visa holder in the areas of the arts, athletics, or the motion picture or television industry (but not in the areas of the sciences, education, or business) can qualify for an O-2 visa. In addition, the spouse and unmarried children under age 21 of an O-1 visa holder can qualify for an O-3 visa.

 

Conclusion

 

If you can establish that you possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, or the arts, or have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, you may be eligible for an O-1 visa.

 

We thank you for reading this blog. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. We look forward to continuing to provide you with information about U.S. immigration law topics as your trusted source on U.S. immigration law.

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The O-1 Visa Explained
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