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U.S. Immigration Law

O-1 Visas for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Arts, Athletics or Business

O-1 Visa for ProfessionalsWhat is an O-1 Visa?

The O-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa for foreign individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or in television/motion pictures. An employer must file a petition for the O-1 on behalf of the foreign individual; the petition must be submitted with a written consultation or advisory opinion from a peer group, labor organization, or management organization regarding the work to be performed and the foreign individual’s qualifications.

Criteria for the O-1 Visa:

The O-1 visa category is reserved for those individuals who have risen to the very top of their fields of endeavor and can provide documentary evidence to substantiate this claim.

Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics

To qualify for O-1 visa status as a foreign individual with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics, the individual must demonstrate national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of:

  1. The receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, OR
  2. At least three of the following:
    1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
    2. Membership in an association in the field which requires outstanding achievements of its members;
    3. Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the individual concerning his/her work in the field;
    4. Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others;
    5. Scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field;
    6. Authorship of scholarly articles in the field in professional journals or other major media;
    7. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
    8. High salary or other remuneration commanded by the individual for services;
    9. Other comparable evidence.

Extraordinary Ability in the Arts

Foreign individuals of extraordinary ability in the arts must provide evidence of a high level of achievement in the arts, as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. The individual must be shown to be prominent, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. To qualify for this category the foreign individual must show:

  1. Evidence that he/she has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy or a Director’s Guild Award; OR
  2. At least three of the following:
    1. Evidence that he/she has 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;
    2. Evidence of national or international recognition for achievements (demonstrated by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications);
    3. Evidence that individual has performed and will perform in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments with a distinguished reputation, evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications or testimonials;
    4. Evidence that he/she has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success, as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, 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;
    5. Evidence of significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the individual is engaged; such testimonials must be in a form that clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the applicant’s achievements;
    6. Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence; or
    7. Other comparable evidence.

Extraordinary Ability in the Motion Picture or Television Industry

Foreign individuals of extraordinary ability in the motion picture or television industries must prove that they have a very high level of accomplishment, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily recognized as outstanding or notable. To qualify as an individual of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry for purposes of the O-1 non-immigrant visa, an applicant must demonstrate a “record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry” as evidenced by:

  1. Evidence that applicant has been nominated for or has received significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy or a Director’s Guild Award, OR
  2. At least three of the following:
    1. Evidence that he/she has 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;
    2. Evidence of national or international recognition for achievements (demonstrated by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications);
    3. Evidence that the individual has performed and will perform in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments with a distinguished reputation, evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications or testimonials;
    4. Evidence that he/she has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success, as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, 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;
    5. Evidence of significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the individual is engaged; such testimonials must be in a form that clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the individual’s achievements;
    6. Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence; or
    7. Other comparable evidence.

For how long is the O-1 Visa valid?

An O-1 visa holder may be admitted for an initial period of not more than three years. An extension of the O-1 visa may be authorized in increments of up to one year.

Who may accompany an O-1 Visa holder?

Foreign individuals may accompany the O-1 artists, athletes or motion pictures/television artists in O-2 status if they are coming to the United States to assist in the performance of the O-1 individual, are an integral part of the performance, and have critical skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder which are not possessed by U.S. workers. Written consultations/advisory opinions are also required for each O-2 individual.

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may apply for O-3 visa status in order to accompany the O-1 visa holder to the U.S. O-3 visa status does not confer authorization for employment in the U.S.

How may I obtain an O-1 Visa?

The O-1 visa petition is filed at the appropriate U.S.C.I.S. Regional Service Center with evidence of the individual’s extraordinary ability and an advisory opinion from an appropriate consulting entity or a labor organization. If there is no such consulting entity or labor organization in the foreign individual’s field, the employer must document that such a peer group, labor organization or management organization does not exist.

If the foreign individual is in the United States and eligible to change non-immigrant status, the U.S.C.I.S. will issue an approval notice with a new I-94 card. If he or she  is unable to change status in the U.S. or not present in the U.S., he/she must apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.

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