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O-1 Visa: General Information

The United States Government can grant the O visa classification to a non-immigrant temporary worker who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. The classification can also be granted to certain assistants and immediate family members of such worker.

O-1 visas applicants must have a job offer from an employer willing to sponsor them. The petition is submitted through the USCIS form I-129.

O visas categories

O visas are divided into the following categories

  • O-1A: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry);
  • O-1B: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry;
  • O-2: Individuals who will accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance; and
  • O-3: Individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.

Required Evidence for O petitions:

  • Offer letter and written contracts or summary of the terms of the oral agreements confirming proposed employment
    • The O visa holder is an employee. Thus, the application must be submitted by an employer and supported by employment documentation.
  • Itinerary of the events explaining the nature, including dates
    • An O visa applicant must be coming to the United States to participate to an event or series of events. This may include activities such as a scientific project, conference, convention, lecture, series, tour, exhibit, business project, academic year.
  • Written advisory opinions from recognized figures in the applicant’s field of endeavor
    • An O-1 petition must contain at least one written advisory opinion from an appropriate union, if one exists, describing beneficiary’s ability/achievements and duties to be performed. The petition may also contain nonunion opinions from any expert source.
  • Evidence of extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement, shown by national or international acclaim in a particular field (O-1A) or a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement if working in motion pictures or televisions productions (O-1B)

When it comes to evidence, the important part to prove is the extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement of the O-1 applicant. Depending on the field of endeavor, the intending O-1 applicant will have to show certain specific elements.

For example, in the field of arts, the O-1 applicant must show distinction and Prominence.

  • Distinction:  high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered;
  • Prominence: renowned, leading, or well-known in the field.

Thus, the evidence will have to establish

  • Lead in production having a distinguished reputation;
  • Critical reviews in major newspapers or trade journals;
  • Lead for organization that has a distinguished reputation;
  • Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
  • Significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field; or
  • has commanded or will command a high salary

Another example is in Business, where the O-1 applicant will show that he or she has arisen to the top of his or her field of endeavor. Thus, the evidence must show

  • Award of a Nobel prize; or
  • at least three of the following:
    • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards;
    • Membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement;
    • Published materials about the applicant in professional or major trade publications;
    • Judgment of the work of others;
    • Original scientific or scholarly work of major significance in the field;
    • Evidence of authorship of scholarly work;
    • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity at an organization with a distinguished reputation; or
    • Has commanded or will command a high salary in relation to others in the field.

Final considerations

Different areas have been accepted as fields of endeavor for O-1 visa approval. For example, a chess player was granted O-1 classification as an extraordinary person in business. While the beneficiary did not have a Nobel prize, he was able to show three alternative requirements: international award and national titles, publication in major magazines,  and participation as a judge of the work of others.

While getting an approval for a O-visa can be a complex process, it is not impossible. Getting advice from a knowledgeable immigration attorney will certainly increase one’s chances of approval.

If you have additional questions regarding the O visa, contact PL immigration attorneys at mmutombo@patellegal.com or cprescott@patellegal.com

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