The O-1 visa allows outstanding, foreign-born workers in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to be legally employed in the United States for a short-term. There are two types of O-1 visas (O-1A and O-1B) covering specific industries permitted under the general “O” visa category.
The “O” visa category is commonly referred to by its classifications in the following subcategories:
(References to further distinctions: USCIS O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement, Immigration and Nationality Act at I.N.A. § 101(a) (15)(O), or the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o)(1)(ii)(A)(1).)
The O-1 visa permits you to stay and work for up to 3 years in the U.S. After it expires, you can apply for an extension which will grant you an additional stay for 1 year. There is no limit to the number of extensions, so the length of O-1 visa stays vary.
Your length of stay can also be determined by the agreement with your employer or employment status. If you are terminated for reasons other than voluntary resignation, your employer must pay for the reasonable cost of your return transportation to your home country.
To qualify for an O-1 Visa, you must:
Note that you can only qualify as an individual and not if you belong to a group or team. For example, if you are a member of a Premier League champion football team in Europe, you do not qualify solely based on your organization’s achievements.
If you believe you are eligible, your prospective U.S. employer will have to file the petition (Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf. In addition, they have to submit the documentation of your job offer along with the required evidence that demonstrates your extraordinary ability (see “How is Extraordinary Ability Defined?” below).
In some cases, you may need a written advisory opinion from a peer group or a person designated by the group with expertise in your specialized field. Consult an immigration attorney to find out exactly what documents you or your employer will need to file the petition.
Generally, you must have received national or international recognition for your work in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Let’s explore the definition of “Extraordinary Ability” for the O-1A and O1B visa classifications.
The O-1A visa standards for extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics require that you are nationally or internationally known in your field as a top expert. An example of this recognition could include receiving a Nobel Peace Prize or an Olympic gold medal. Otherwise, your petitioner can demonstrate your acclaim by submitting evidence in at least three of the following criteria in your field of expertise:
If these criteria do not directly apply to your occupation, your U.S. employer may present evidence more relevant to your case. Additionally, the petitioner should explain why the criteria does not apply to you.
The O-1B visa standards for extraordinary ability in the arts, motion picture, or television require that you have proof of receiving national or international awards/prizes in your field. For example, receiving an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or Tony would meet the criteria. Alternatively, your petitioner can demonstrate your acclaim by submitting documentation in at least three of the following criteria in your field of expertise:
As with the O-1A visa, if the above criteria does not directly apply to you, your petitioner may supply comparable evidence and detail why it was used.
The O-2 visa allows foreign-born workers to be temporarily employed in the United States with the requirement that they are providing essential and integral support to an extraordinary O-1 worker. Thus, if you are an O-2 visa applicant, your visa status is somewhat dependent on the O-1 visa holder. You cannot work in the U.S. legally without continuing to provide essential support to the O-1 individual.
Similar to the O-1 visa, you can stay up to 3 years with an approved application and extend your stay every year. If you have specific timeframes written in your agreement with your employer, are terminated or resign from your position, your length of stay could be less than 3 years.
Your prospective U.S. employer will file the petition (Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf. In addition, they have to submit documentation of the following:
Each country may have specific requirements for immigration, so consult a reputable immigration attorney to make sure you are well-informed.
The O-3 visa allows the dependents or immediate family members of O-1 and O-2 visa holders to reside together in the United States. Note that this visa does not permit O-3 visa holders to work in the U.S. but they may study at any U.S. educational institution or take short international trips.
Your O-1 or O-2 spouse’s U.S. employer will file the petition (Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf. You must be accompanying the O-1 visa holder and be a direct relative. In addition, your petitioner will have to submit the following documents for your application:
We highly recommend you consult an attorney to thoroughly cover all the requirements for your family’s case.
It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by the processes and documents needed to move forward with an O-1, O-2, or O-3 visa. Requirements may be different based on what country you are immigrating from and your specific set of circumstances. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to ensure that you are well equipped to receive the O visas. We’ve handled immigration cases for nearly 40 years and are happy to bring our expansive experience to your case.