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 O-1 Visa/Status for Aliens with Extraordinary 
Ability in Sciences, Education, Business, Athletics, and Arts

1. About the O-1 Visa

The O-1 visa is for persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, athletics, television, and motion picture industry. Short-term work visas are available to certain people doing specialized work, including the O visa for outstanding workers in the sciences, arts, athletics, education, or business. A job offer from a U.S. employer is a basic requirement for the O visa. There is no annual limit on the number of people who can receive O visas.

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual 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 have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. The O nonimmigrant classification is commonly referred to as:

  • 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. For an O-1A, the O-2's assistance must be an "integral part" of the O-1A's activity. For an O-1B, the O-2's assistance must be "essential" to the completion of the O-1B's production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.

  • O-3: individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1's and O-2's.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the alien beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, and must be coming to U.S. to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

2. O-1 Visa for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

O-1 visa/status is designed for aliens of extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, education, business, athletics, and arts. "Extraordinary ability" means that the individual is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of their field of endeavor. 

The O-1 extraordinary ability visa applies to individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The individual should demonstrate that they have national or international acclaim, and that their achievements have been recognized in the field of expertise, indicating that they are one of that small percent who has risen to the top of their field of endeavor. The individual should plan to continue to work in their area of extraordinary ability and must substantially benefit the United States."

The O-1 visa/status is similar to the "Extraordinary Ability" EB-1 green card category, in that it is meant for only those who have risen to the very top of their field. Unlike the extraordinary ability green card category, an O-1 visa or status cannot be processed as a "self-petition." Rather, an employer must file the petition for the beneficiary. 

O-1 visa or status is valid for up to 3 years, with 1 year incremental extensions. The total time allowed in this status is determined by the "duration of the event" for which the visa status is granted. Thus, there is no limit on the time an O-1 holder staying in the U.S. 

O-1 visa or status could be obtained by those in H-1B status who have exhausted the full authorized stay of 6-years. Also, the benefit of the O-1 visa over the J1 visa is that individuals currently on J1 visas can transfer to the O-1 category without having completed the 2 year home residency requirement or having received the waiver of the 2 year home residency requirement. Such J1 individuals will be required to travel abroad to apply for the O-1 visa after approval of the O-1 petition.

O-1 extensions may be authorized for periods of up to one year to continue or complete the event for which the O-1 holder was admitted into the United States. 

Although the processing time for an O-1 visa/status is somewhat less than the processing time for an H-1B, two to four months lead time should still be given to allow sufficient time to obtain the necessary supporting documentation and to complete the application process. Once the determination is made that the alien qualifies under the regulatory definition of "outstanding", supporting documentation is assembled. In addition, an advisory opinion from a "peer group" must be obtained.

The USCIS Form for petitioning of an O visa is the Form I-129 "Petition for temporary worker". This form must be submitted along with the consultation opinion letter, evidence documenting the alien's extraordinary ability, and details of the proposed work in the US. The petition is to be approved for the duration of the event in which the alien will participate, for a maximum of three years initially.

3. The Advantages of the O-1 Visa 

The O-1 visa is available to an alien applicant who has a job offer in the United States, with proven extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The O-1 visa applicant should have received national or international acclaim in a particular field, or if working in motion pictures or television productions, have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.

O-1 visas can be given only on the basis of an alien applicant's individual qualifications. Being a members of a group or team will not, by itself, qualify the alien applicant for an O-1 visa. Also, the alien applicant should come to the United States working or performing at an event or a series of events in the area of extraordinary ability. The term "event" is interpreted liberally outside the fields of athletics and arts, and it can include an ongoing research project for a private company or university.

A job offer from a U.S. employer is a basic requirement for the O-1 visa applicant. There is no annual visa limit on the number of alien applicants who can receive the O-1 visas. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of the O-1 visa include:

1) The O-1 visas can be issued quickly by USCIS. The O-1 visa holder can work legally in the United States for the O-1 visa employer. If the O-1 worker wants to change jobs, a new visa application is required.

2) The O-1 visas will be issued for the length of time necessary for a particular event in the United States, up to a maximum of 3 years, with unlimited extensions in 1-year increments.

3) The O-1 visa holder and the family members can travel in and out of the United States, or stay continuously in the United States for as long as the O-1 status are valid.

4) The O-1 visa holder's spouse and unmarried children under age 21 can accompany the O-1 visa holder, but they could not accept employment with the O-2 visa in the United States.

4. The Requirement of Advisory Opinion

To file an O-1 visa application, an Advisory Opinion should be be accompanied the O-1 visa application documents. The U.S. employer should consult with an appropriate peer group, labor organization, or management organization in the area of the alien's outstanding ability to get the advisory opinion for the alien beneficiary. Generally, a written advisory opinion should be obtained from the appropriate consulting entity with expertise in the alien beneficiary's field. 

Aside from meeting the evidence tests, a key requirement for O-1 applicants is consulting with an appropriate peer group, labor and/or management organization regarding the type of work to be performed and the qualifications of the proposed beneficiary. The "peer group", an organization of person in the same field as the beneficiary, must normally provide a written opinion to USCIS, but the opinion is not binding. 

The O-1 petition must be accompanied by a consultation letter from a recognized peer group such as a professional society stating that they have no objection to the beneficiary obtaining an O-1 visa to work in the United States. For all O-1 and O-2 applicants, the petition must include an advisory opinion from a peer group, labor union, or person with expertise in the applicant's field. This opinion can either state simply that the group has no objection to issuing the visa, or can detail the applicant's achievements. If the achievements are detailed, the letter should also address the applicant's ability, the nature of the position offered, and whether the position requires a person of extraordinary ability. 

  • A written consultation/advisory opinion can be from a peer group or recognized expert, in the field of individual's area of ability. An example might be a letters of support from a renowned researchers, as evidenced by detailed curriculum vitae and publication list, which attests the qualifications and work to be done by the O-1 beneficiary. 
  • For applicants in the television and motion picture industries, there must be a consultation with both the appropriate labor union and management organization. This opinion must state the applicant's achievements in the field, and must state whether the position offered requires a person of extraordinary achievement.
  • But an advisory opinion may not be required if the petitioner could prove that an appropriate consulting entity does not exist to provide Advisory Opinion. 
  • If the petitioner is requesting expeditious handling of the O-1 visa application, an advisory opinion from an appropriate consulting entity may not be submitted with the application documents. The expeditious handling could be granted with regard to O-1 visa application on behalf of an alien who will be employed in the fields of art, entertainment, or athletics.

The petitioner should file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS office listed on the form instructions. The advisory opinion or consultation letter is required for an O-1 visa petition. A written advisory opinion is required from a peer group, including labor organizations, or a person designated by the group with expertise in the alien beneficiary’s area of ability.

If the O-1 petition is for an individual with extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television, the consultation letter must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability.

5. The Qualification Criteria of O-1 Visa

For qualification criteria of O-1 visa, the alien applicant should come to U.S. to work or perform at an event or a series of events in the area of extraordinary ability. The term “event" can be interpreted liberally not only in the fields of athletics or arts, but can also include an ongoing research project for a U.S. company.

To meet the O-1 visa requirement of extraordinary ability in science, education, business, or athletics, the applicant must be able to show extraordinary ability, and receipt of sustained national or international acclaim for it. This can be demonstrated if the person has accomplished at least three of the following:

  • Received a nationally recognized prize or award for excellence;

  • Attained membership in associations that require outstanding achievements of their members in a particular field of expertise, as judged by recognized national or international experts;

  • Been the subject of published material in professional or major trade publications or major media (regarding you and your work);

  • Participated, on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in your field;

  • Made an original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contribution of major significance to the field;

  • Authored scholarly articles in professional journals or major media;

  • Been previously employed in a critical or essential capacity for an organization with a distinguished reputation, or;

  • Command or have commanded a high salary or other outstanding remuneration for your services.

If the above criteria do not readily apply to the applicant's occupation, the applicant can submit "comparable evidence" to show the “extraordinary ability”, and explain why the above criteria do not apply to the applicant.

6. O-1 Visa is a Better Option for Aliens with Extraordinary Ability than H-1B Visa

Many people may wonder whether they could qualify for the O-1 visa. The common misunderstanding could be that the O-1 visa application may be difficult to get approval. Therefore, many aliens with extraordinary ability may not normally apply for U.S. working visa in O-1 visa category.

Due to the yearly H-1B visa number limitation, the alien applicants from foreign countries need to wait for the H-1B visa quota for their H-1B visa application. Many new aliens are looking for other options. The O-1 visa is such a better option for those aliens with extraordinary ability who could qualify. Because these is no limit for O-1 visa number each year, and the O-1 visas are immediately available. 

Normally, people may expect aliens with extraordinary ability to have Ph.D. degrees or Mater Degree, but the USCIS regulations do not require a Doctorate Degree or Master Degree for the O-1 visa application. 

7. The Premium Processing for O1 Visa Application

You cannot apply for the O1 visa as an individual. A U.S. employer has to sponsor your O1 visa. To sponsor you, the U.S. employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the Form I-129 O/P supplement, and supporting documentation. The petition is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service center with jurisdiction over the location of the job. Once the USCIS approves of the O1 visa petition, you may apply for the O1 visa at an American Consulate overseas.

For premium processing of O1 visa application, the O1 petition can be adjudicated within 15 calendar days by applying for premium processing. For an additional fee, the USCIS guarantees a prompt decision on your O1 petition. You will receive either an approval notice, a request for further evidence, or a notice of intent to deny the petition ithin 15 calendar days from the date you applied for premium processing of your O1 visa. If USCIS fails to respond within 15 calendar days, it will refund the fee and continue to process the petition under the expedited process.

An O1 petition is filed on USCIS Form I-129, along with the I-129 O/P Supplement. Your O1 petition must include a written consultation with a peer group in your area of ability, and a copy of any written contract between you and your employer, or summary of terms of the oral agreement under which you will be employed.

8. Complete Do-It-Yourself Package for O-1 Visa Application

The burden of O-1 visa application approval rests with the petitioner. The petitioner should provide substantial evidence of at least 3 out of 8 O-1 visa criteria that the alien could satisfy. If the alien applicant is qualified, then the success depends largely on the way the application is presented to USCIS. 

To help you apply for or renew your O-1 visa or status easily and quickly, we provide a high quality and case proved Complete Do-It-Yourself Package for O-1 Visa/Status Application, based on our extensive and practical employment immigration experience.

As added value in the Complete Do-It-Yourself Package for O-1 Visa Application, we provide comprehensive instructions on O-1 visa application requirements and processing, and we also let you know the step-by-step petition procedures, strategies, detailed instructions, all required documents, and how to submit a comprehensive O-1 visa application to USCIS. We also provide detailed sample of petition cover letter, peer group advisory letter, recommendation letters, sample of filled petition forms, all the required USCIS forms, and the complete explanations of many petition related important issues.

New immigrants can benefit from our added value to make the complicated application process much simpler and easier, at the same time meet the U.S. Government's rigorous requirements. Therefore, our Complete Do-It-Yourself Package for O-1 Visa Application is much more beneficial than the U.S. Government website's free service. If you apply for an O-1 visa by yourself, or if you have a lawyer working for you, you will find our package to be very helpful. With this package, you get all the information you need and the step-by-step knowledge of how to obtain your O-1 visa.


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