What are the requirements for the O-1 individuals with extraordinary ability visa?

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is available to those foreign nationals who posses extraordinary ability in science, business, education or athletics (O-1A) and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. It is also available to those who possess extraordinary ability in the arts or have attained extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry (O-1B).

To be eligible for an O-1 visa in the sciences, education, business or athletics, foreign nationals must demonstrate that they possess "a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentages who have risen to the top of the field of endeavor." One way to demonstrate is through receiving a major internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize. Alternatively, foreign nationals may provide documentation in three of the following categories:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the foreign national and his/her work in the field
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media
  • A high salary or other compensation for services evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others.
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • If the above standards do not readily apply, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility

Extraordinary ability in the arts means that the applicant has attained "distinction." Distinction is defined as "a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidence by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered." Distinction has also been defined as prominence in the field of endeavor. The applicant can demonstrate distinction by being the nominee or recipient of important national or international prizes such as an Academy Award, Emmy, or Grammy, or by submitting documentation in at least three of the following categories:

  • Performed or will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation 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 foreign national in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as indicated by 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 with the testimonials clearly indicating the author's authority, expertise and knowledge of the alien'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

An O-2 visa can be obtained for those accompanying the O-1 visa holder who will assist the O-1 foreign nationals in their performance. To qualify for an O-2 visa, the applicant must be an integral part of the actual performance, have critical skills and experience that cannot be performed by others, and have a long-standing working relationship with the O-1 in television and motion pictures.

The US employer or agent can file the petition for the foreign nationals. The initial admission period for O-1 status is up to three years, determined by the length of event, projects and/or contract the foreign national will be engaged in. Extension can be granted for one year increment with no maximum limit.

Dependents of O-1 visa holders are accorded O-3 status.

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