O-1 Visas for those with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
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 has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.
“Extraordinary ability” in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise such that the applicant is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.
On the other hand, in the field of arts, “extraordinary ability” means distinction, i.e., a high level of achievement in the field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, such that the individual can be described as prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field.
For those in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement. This is defined as a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered, such that the person is recognized as being outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.
Support staff who play an essential or integral part of the primary artist or athlete can apply for an O-2 visa. The O-2 worker must possess critical skills and experience with the principal that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the principal.
The application will require a written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability.
If the O-1 petition is for an individual in the motion picture or television field, the consultation must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability.
If the petitioner can demonstrate that an appropriate peer group/labor organization does not exist, then the decision will be based on the evidence of record. Similarly, a consultation may be waived for an alien with extraordinary ability in the field of arts if the alien seeks readmission to perform similar services within 2 years of the date of a previous consultation.
For individuals seeking an O-1 in fields other than motion picture/television, the petition should be supported by evidence that the beneficiary has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize. Alternatively, the beneficiary should submit 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 which require 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; or
- Other comparable evidence
For those in the motion picture/television field, the petition should include evidence that the beneficiary 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. Alternatively, the beneficiary can show evidence of at least (3) three of the following:
- Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which 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
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Once the petition is approved by USCIS, the beneficiary can apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate for the visa. The visa can be issued for an initial period of up to three years.
The spouse or children under 21 years of age of an O-1 are eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa. Their visa will be subject to the same period of admission as the principal nonimmigrant. Unfortunately, the O-3 spouse/child is not eligible for employment authorization. However, they may engage in full or part time study.