O-1 “Extraordinary Ability” Professional Work Visa

In order to qualify for an O-1 nonimmigrant visa, an individual must possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or must be able to demonstrate a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. Additionally, they must show that they have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. 

 

Sub-categories of the O visa are:

  • O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics

  • O-1B: a person with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry

  • O-2: a person who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance

  • O-3: a person who is the spouse or children of an O-1 or O-2 visa holder

 

General Requirements of O-1A Visa.  The beneficiary must demonstrate “extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim” and must be seeking to live temporarily in the U.S. in order to continue his or her work in the area of the extraordinary ability.

 

In order to establish “Extraordinary ability” in the selected fields, the petitioner must demonstrate a level of expertise indicating that the he or she is one of the small percentage of people who have risen to the very top (e.g. top 5 or 10%) of their industry or field of endeavor.

 

Written Advisory Opinions.  In each field or industry, there are unique methods and accomplishments used to benchmark and determine whether the applicant has established extraordinary ability.  USCIS will often seek to rely in part upon a written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor unions) or a person with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability, if applicable to that person’s field. Where it can be shown that an appropriate peer group does not exist, then the decision will be based on other evidence submitted.

 

Employment Contracts.  USCIS will often look for evidence of a written or oral contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary (person applying), setting forth the terms of the proposed employment.  In the case of an oral agreement, a summary of the terms can be provided.

 

Itineraries.  As the O-1 visa is a temporary visa, USCIS will seek an itinerary of the work or endeavor that the extraordinary ability person will seek to do while in the U.S., including a description of the events or activities, including dates and locations, that are scheduled or envisioned.  The petitioner must show that the itinerary activities are within the beneficiary’s field of extraordinary ability for the visa period requested.

 

International Acclaim Qualifications.  USCIS gives the following guidance as to establishing international acclaim, and specifies that the beneficiary must provide evidence that he or she has received a major, internationally-recognized award (such as a Nobel Prize), or evidence of at least (3) three of the following (from the USCIS website):  

 

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor

  • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field

  • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought

  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field

  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought

  • A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought

  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation

 

Where the foregoing criteria do not generally apply to the person’s field of extraordinary ability, he or she may provide comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility.

 

General Requirements of O-1B Visa.  USCIS website further gives the following guidance as to establishing international acclaim, and specifies that the beneficiary must provide evidence that he or she has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in his or her field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director's Guild Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  

  • 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

  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications

  • 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

  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications

  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author's authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary's achievements

  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

 

Period of Stay.  The initial period of stay for an O-1 visa will be up to 3 years, with additional 1-year extension increments, depending upon the activities.

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