The O-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in science, arts, education, business, athletics, or the motion picture or television industry. This visa allows the holder to work in the US in their field or area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

Qualifying for the O-1 Visa

There are two different categories of O-1 visas.

  1. O-1A Visa - for individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, or athletics.
  2. O-1B Visa -
    1. O-1B (Arts) is a visa for individuals with extraordinary ability in arts, and
    2. O-1B (MPTV) is a visa for individuals with extraordinary achievements in Motion Pictures or the Television industry.

Understanding Extraordinary Ability and Extraordinary Achievement

Proving your extraordinary ability or achievement is the most important requirement to qualify for the O-1 visa. The regulations specify different parameters and different types of documents, and forms of evidence that can be used to prove your eligibility.

However, merely winning an award or submitting the required three types of other evidence does not automatically prove your extraordinary ability or achievement.

The evidence will be considered and evaluated in totality when determining your eligibility. This means a thorough qualitative assessment of your submissions by an experienced immigration attorney may significantly improve your chances of qualifying for this visa.

Benefits of Choosing the O-1 Visa

If you qualify for an O-1 visa, you will receive several benefits not offered by other visas including:

  • A way to leverage your extraordinary achievements and qualify for a US work visa.
  • No additional requirements related to education, work experience, or language proficiency.
  • A versatile work visa option covering a wide range of professions and occupations
  • A visa that covers a wide range of employment options ranging from conventional work contracts for business persons to performance contracts for entertainers and athletes.
  • You can be accompanied by your spouse and dependent children.
  • The O-2 visa allows an assistant who is integral to your performance and who has critical skills and experience to accompany you.
  • You can work for multiple employers, change employers, or increase the number of performances within the US with minimum procedural compliances.

Is the O-1 Visa the Right Option for You?

  • Is your profession or occupation related to science, education, business, athletics, art, motion pictures, or the television industry?
  • Can you prove, through awards, testimonials, past and existing projects and performances, or other specified proofs, that you possess extraordinary ability or have extraordinary achievements?
  • Is there a US employer, US agent, or a foreign employer acting through a US agent who will apply for the O-1A or O-1B visa for you?

If you can answer all questions ‘Yes’, then you are eligible for an O-1A or O-1B visa as applicable to your profession or occupation.

Understanding the O-1A Visa

The O-1A visa is available to an individual who:

  • Has extraordinary ability in art, education, science, business, or sports, and
  • Can demonstrate such ability through sustained national or international acclaim, and
  • Is coming to the US to temporarily work in the occupation or profession of their extraordinary ability.

You have “Extraordinary Ability” if you have the level of expertise that places you among a small percentage of people who have risen to the top of the occupation or profession.

For example, someone who has received a major and internationally-recognized award like the Nobel Prize will be considered as having Extraordinary Ability

Alternatively, you must submit extensive documentation to show any three of the following examples of Extraordinary Ability:

  • Nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards you have received.
  • Association membership that is restricted to members with outstanding achievements as judged by recognized national or international experts.
  • Published material in reputed and major publications or other major media.
  • Work as a judge—as an individual or in a panel—of work done by other members of your occupation/profession/field of work.
  • Original important scholarly, scientific, or business contributions.
  • Scholarly articles you have written for professional journals or other media.
  • Employment in critical or essential capacity in distinguished organizations.
  • Very high remuneration paid by your employer.

Understanding the O-1B Visa

To qualify for the O-1B- Arts visa, you must:

  • Demonstrate extraordinary ability in the arts
  • Showcase sustained national or international acclaim
  • Possess a high level of achievement in the field of art, or
  • Have skill, recognition, and renown that’s substantially above others.

The O-1B- MPTV visa requires you to showcase extraordinary achievements in motion picture and/or television productions.

An individual who has received an internationally recognized award like an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award will be considered eligible for both categories of the O-1B visa.

Alternatively, your petition must be supported by any three of the following forms of proof:

  • You are the lead or a starring participant in distinguished productions and events.
  • You have national or international recognition for your performances based on critical reviews and published material.
  • You will perform a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments in your field of art.
  • You have a good track record of major commercial and/or critically acclaimed successes.
  • You have received significant recognition for your achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts.
  • You command a very high salary for your performances.

In both categories, you must be working in the US in the area of your extraordinary achievement.

A Mandatory Consultation is Required for all O Visa Applicants

The mandatory consultation process for all O nonimmigrant visa petitions involves getting either a favorable (a ‘No Objection’) advisor opinion from a US peer group in the area of your profession.

The opinion must describe your abilities and achievements, the nature of duties you will perform in the US, and whether the position requires a person of extraordinary ability.

Any negative opinion must include a statement of facts supporting the adverse conclusion.

For the O-1B MPTV visa, opinions can be obtained from your occupational peers in the US as well as from management organizations operating in your area of ability.

This mandatory consultation may be waived if you are seeking readmission to the US within two years from the date of your previous consultation.

The O-1 Visa Application Process

An O-1 visa beneficiary cannot file a petition on their own behalf. Instead, your petition must be filed by your US employer, US agent, or foreign employer acting through a US agent.

The petition should be supported by documents such as:

  • A copy of a written contract or summary of an oral agreement between the beneficiary and the petitioner.
  • A detailed itinerary indicating the beginning and ending dates of your events and activities across all locations in the US.
  • Affidavits from present or former employers and/or recognized experts that certify and recognize your:
    • Extraordinary ability supporting an O-1A or O-1B Arts petition, or
    • Extraordinary achievement supporting an O-1B MPTV petition
  • Such affidavits must specifically and factually describe the recognition and ability/achievement along with the expertise and qualification of the person(s) making the affidavits.

Living and Working in the US

The O-1 visa allows you to work in your area of ability/achievement across the US. You can work for different employers in the US provided the US agent submitted the necessary details in the petition.

The O-1A or O-1B visa holder can be accompanied by an assistant who fulfills the eligibility requirements of the O-2 visa.

O-1 and O-2 visa holders can be accompanied by their spouses and dependent children under the age of 21 on the O-3 visa. O-3 beneficiaries are not permitted to work but can study as part-time or full-time students in the US.

Validity of O-1 Visas

The O-1 visa is valid for a period of up to three years. If necessary to accomplish the initial activity, the visa’s validity can be extended for up to one year.

The O-1 visa is a very versatile nonimmigration option for any individual with a good track record that proves extraordinary ability or achievement. The visa covers a wide range of occupations and professionals ranging from scientific inventors to businesspersons to artists and athletes.

However, the focus on the quality of an applicant’s achievement can be a double-edged sword since merely compiling multiple proofs of ability will not improve your chances of qualifying for the O-1 visa.

We Can Help With the O-1 Visa Process

Obtaining an O-1 visa is a complicated process. Our team has years of experience dealing with the US Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services on behalf of extraordinary people from all over the world. Equip yourself with the support and assistance of an experienced immigration attorney who will guide you through all aspects and facets of the O-1 visa process including gathering extensive documentary proof, preparing and filing your O-1 application, and ensuring the best possible outcome of your nonimmigrant work visa petition.

Call (323) 739-7532 or complete our simple online form to schedule a free initial 20-minute consultation today.