Nonimmigrant Classifications – O-1 Visa




O-1 is a type of nonimmigrant visa for foreign nationals who have demonstrated an extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics. Also available under the O category are O-2 visas, for individuals who are an integral to the performance of the person holding the O-1 visa, as well as O-3 visas, for spouses and children who are accompanying the alien holding an O-1 visa. The O-1 visa also applies to movie directors and actors.

Eligibility Criteria

In order to qualify under this category:
1.      The foreign national must have an extensively documented record of extraordinary achievement
in his/her field. Extraordinary ability means that the individual has sustained national or
international acclaim.
2.      A somewhat lesser degree of national or international acclaim applies to artists.
3.      The alien must also desire to come to the United States in order to work in their field.

Dual Intent


Unlike other nonimmigrant visa categories, the O-1 visa allows foreign workers to file applications for immigration to the United States, considered an adjustment of their status, without affecting the status of their O-1 visa. Other nonimmigrant categories require an intention to return to a person’s home country (nonimmigrant intent) in order for the visa to be issued.  Under the O-1 visa, this requirement has been removed and foreign workers are not required to have a foreign residence that they plan to return to in order to have their visa issued.

Petition Process
A foreign national looking to obtain an O-1 visa must have a U.S. employer or an agent file a petition onhis/her behalf. Furthermore, the petitioning employer needs to obtain an advisory opinion from a labor organization or a peer group in the foreign national’s area of expertise, if one exists, that states that the alien possesses an extraordinary ability. The petitioner must establish the foreign national’s extraordinary ability through at least three of the following:
1.      Receipt of a nationally or internationally recognized prize or award for excellence in his/her
particular field;
2.      The individual is a member of an association in their particular field that requires outstanding
achievements for membership, as judged by international experts;
3.      Material that has been published in a professional or major trade publication, newspaper or
other  form of major media about the foreign national and his/her work in their particular field;
4.      Major contributions that are original scientific, scholarly or business-related that have been made
by the individual seeking an O-1 visa;
5.      Evidence that the alien has authored scholarly articles in professional journals or another form of
major media in their particular field;
6.      A demonstration that the foreign national commands a high salary or other form of remuneration
for his/her services through contracts or another form of reliable evidence;
7.      Evidence that the alien has judged the work of his/her peers in the same or similar field, either on
a panel or as an individual;
8.      Evidence that the individual has been employed in a critical or essential manner for an
organization or establishment that has a distinguished reputation.
If the standards just listed do not directly apply to the foreign national’s occupation, the person petitioning for an O-1 visa can submit evidence of a comparable nature that establishes the person’s eligibility as an alien of extraordinary ability.
If the individual seeking an O-1 visa is a movie performer, the alien can establish that he/she has an extraordinary ability by showing evidence that he/she has received or has been nominated for an award or prize of significant national or international acclaim in his/her field. Examples of such include, but are not limited to:

1.      An Academy Award;
2.      An Emmy;
3.      A Grammy;
4.      A Director’s Guild Award. 

If the movie performer does not have evidence of such, they must provide evidence of at least 3 of the
following in order to receive an O-1 visa:
1.      The individual seeking entry to the United States has performed or will perform in a lead or
starring role in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation, as demonstrated
through reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
2.      The alien has attained national or international recognition for his/her accomplishments, as
evidenced by materials published, including critical reviews, about the alien in major media;
3.      Evidence that the alien has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success, which
can be demonstrated through the individual’s title, rating or standing in the field, box office
receipts, ratings or other occupational achievements that are reported in major media;
4.      The foreign national has received recognition of his/her achievements from organizations, critics,
government agencies or other experts in the field, including testimony that clearly proves the
author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the foreign national’s accomplishments;
5.      Demonstration of a high salary or other form of remuneration for the services rendered by the
alien in comparison to others in the same field, which can be evidenced by contracts or other
forms of reliable evidence.
If none of the above standards apply to the movie performer, the petitioner can submit evidence of a comparable nature that helps establish the alien’s extraordinary ability in the field.Once an O-1 visa has been granted, it is valid for the length of the event for which the petition was sought, which cannot exceed three years. Extensions may be received following the expiration of the three year limit and will be granted in one-year increments.

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