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O Extraordinary Ability Visas

Understanding O Visas For Individuals With Extraordinary Ability

The O visa is a temporary visa available to certain individuals who have “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field. The O-1 is initially granted for three years. O-2 visas are given to individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance and who are an “integral part” of the O-1’s activities in the U.S.

Who Can File an O Petition?

The O visa can be filed by either a traditional employer or an “agent,” but cannot be filed by the O visa holder. Self-employment is not allowed. The “agent” can also be authorized to represent multiple employers. In addition to having an employer or agent who files the petition for the foreign national of extraordinary ability, the petition must generally include an “advisory opinion letter” and an itinerary.

Requirements and Stipulations

The O visa can be filed by either an employer or an “agent,” but cannot be filed by the O visa holder. The “agent” can also be authorized to represent multiple employers. In addition to having an employer or agent who files the petition for the foreign national of extraordinary ability, the petition must generally include an “advisory opinion letter” and an itinerary.

O-1A Visas (For Science, Education, Business, or Athletics)

O-1A visas are reserved for those individuals with an extraordinary ability in science, education, business, or athletics. The petition must include evidence that the foreign national has received a major, internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • 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 that requires 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
  • If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility

O-1B Visas (For The Arts or The Motion Picture or Television Industry)

O-1B visas are reserved for those individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or the motion picture or television industry. The petition must include evidence that the foreign national has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular 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 that 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
  • If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation in the arts, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility (this exception does not apply to the motion picture or television industry)

Spouses and Children of O Visa Holders

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 may accompany the O visa holder to the US and can be given O-3 visas for dependents.O-3 visa holders are not allowed to work in the United States.

We Can Help You Document Your Extraordinary Ability

At Becker & Lee LLP, business and employment immigration is one of our primary focus areas. Our attorneys have advised a range of talented individuals of extraordinary ability, including scientists, researchers, professors, artists, and performers, among others.

Our O visa lawyers offer comprehensive representation to help increase chances of success in the visa application process. Contact our San Francisco law firm to learn more about your options.