O-1 Visa Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
The O1 visa may be a good option for you to consider if you have an extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, athletics, or education, or if you have a history of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture industry or television industry. With an O1 visa, you can live and work in the United States for extended periods of time AND your spouse and children may be able to accompany you as well.
What is the O-1 Visa?
The O1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for gifted people who have a special ability of some kind. Specifically, the O1 visa is for people who have an extraordinary ability in either the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.
O-1 visas are for individuals who have extraordinary ability or achievement and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements in the following employment sectors:
- Motion Picture
- Television Industry
The classification groups for the O visa are as follows:
To qualify for an O1 visa, you must prove that you have an extraordinary ability and that you are coming to the USA to work in your field of extraordinary ability. The O1 visa petition must be filed by a US employer or agent. You cannot file an O1 visa petition on your own behalf, it is not eligible for self-petition. The US company or agent is the petitioner and the person receiving the O1 visa is the beneficiary.
The O-1 visa has the following six requirements:
- Prove that you have an extraordinary ability
- Your national or international acclaim must be sustained
- You must work in your field of extraordinary ability
- Your employment in the USA must qualify as an “event”
- Your petition must be filed by a US employer, US agent or foreign employer through a US agent
- Must have an advisory opinion from a peer group, labor organisation, or management organisation
What does ‘extraordinary ability’ mean?
Science, Education, Business or Athletics
The applicant must be able to demonstrate they have a level of expertise that indicates they are part of the small percentage that have excelled to the top of their field.
The applicant must demonstrate they have an extraordinary ability to the level of distinction. This means they have a high level of achievement in the arts. Their degree of skill and recognition must be substantially greater than the ordinary individual. The applicant must be renowned, leading, prominent, or well-known in their field of arts.
Motion Picture or Television Industry
The applicant must demonstrate extraordinary achievement that is evidenced by their high degree of skill and recognition. The applicant must be outstanding, notable, or leading in the motion picture or television industry.
What are the benefits of the O-1 visa?
You can live and work in the USA for extended periods of time
With the O-1 visa, there is no limit to the number of times you can extend your status. Once approved, the first O-1 visa provides you with lawful status in the USA for up to 3 years. You can then extend your status of up to 1 year at a time. There is no limit to the number of times you can extend your O-1 status. For this reason, some people stay in the USA for more than 15 years with an O-1 visa.
Benefits for your immediate family members
By getting approved for an O-1 visa, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old are eligible to accompany you to the US. Your spouse and unmarried children would obtain O3 status with your dependents. Your dependents are not permitted to work in the US with O3 status, but they can attend US schools to gain an education.
Ability to work for multiple employers
Another feature of the O-1 visa is that it permits you to work for multiple different employers in the United States.
O-2 Visa available for your assistants
If you are approved for an O-1 visa based on an extraordinary ability in the arts or athletics, or based on an extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, you may be able to bring workers to accompany and assist you in the US. These workers would apply for an O-2 visa.
The O-1 visa is eligible for premium processing. Premium processing is a service provided by USCIS where they expedite the processing of your O-1 petition for an additional fee of $2,500.
No annual limit on the number of O-1 visas issued
Another benefit of the O-1 visa is that there is no annual cap on the number of O-1 visas. This is contrary to other visas, such as the H-1B visa, which has an annual quota.
Application Process of O-1 Visa
US Employer, US Agent or Foreign Employer through a US Agent should file the following documentation on the applicant’s behalf:
- I-129 Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker
- Consultation –
- Science, Education, Business, Athletics or Arts – advisory opinion from peer group or person with expertise in the applicant’s area of ability
- Motion picture or Television Industry – advisory opinion from labour union or management organisation with expertise in the applicant’s area of ability
- Petitioner must provide evidence of the contract between the applicant and the prospective employer or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement of employment’
- If applicable, petitioner must provide an itinerary of the events or activities and establish that these events and activities are within the applicant’s field of extraordinary ability
- Evidence of O-1 Eligibility
- Petitioner must provide evidence of the applicant demonstrating their extraordinary ability in the relevant field. It must include three different types of documentation and demonstrate that the applicant meets the relevant standards for classification.
How Long Can I Stay in the United States on an O-1 Visa?
If you are approved for an O-1 Visa, you can stay for an initial period of up to three years in the United States.
Can I bring my spouse or dependents to the US an O-1 Visa?
If you wish to bring your spouse or dependents under the age of 21 or they will be accompanying you later, they may be eligible for an O-3 non-immigrant visa. They will be subject to the same limitations and period of stay as you as the primary applicant.
How hard is it to get approved for an O-1 Visa?
While the standards of extraordinary ability and extraordinary achievement for an O1 visa are very high, the O1 visa is attainable for the right candidate. If your field of extraordinary ability is in science, business, athletics, education, or art, you must show “sustained national or international acclaim.” If your field of extraordinary ability is in the motion picture or television industry, you must show “a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.” While there is no such thing as a guarantee of approval in US immigration law, your immigration lawyer should be able to estimate your chances of success early on in your case.
How can O-1 visa holders obtain a US Green Card?
The O1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category. This means that the O1 visa is temporary and does not directly lead to a green card. To go from an O1 visa to a green card, you will have to either apply for an adjustment of status or apply for an immigrant visa abroad.