O-1 Visas

Extraordinary Ability (O-1) Visa

There are 4 subdivisions of the O-1 visa category which includes the O-1A, O-1B, O-2, and O-3 visa classifications. Aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics who have received national and/or international acclaim in their field are classified under the O-1A visa category. Aliens who have received national or international acclaim for their extraordinary achievements in the motion picture, television industry, or arts fall under the O-1B classification. O-1A and O-1B applicants must be interested in traveling to the United States temporarily to work in a specified area of extraordinary ability. Qualified assistants who wish to accompany or assist a principal O-1A visa holder (such as an artist or athlete) for a scheduled event or performance fall under the O-2 classification. In order to be eligible for the O-2 visa classification, the assistant must demonstrate that they will form an integral part of the O-1A visa holder’s activities in the United States. Their mere presence does not qualify them to receive an O-2 visa. In order to assist an O-1B visa holder (motion picture or television industry professional), the O-2 assistant must demonstrate that 1) they possess unique skills and relevant experience that is critical to the completion of the principal O-1B visa holders activities in the United States 2) that they are distinguished in their field as an assistant and that their skills are so unique that they cannot be carried out by an American worker similarly positioned 3) that their assistance is fundamental to the completion of the production or activity to be conducted by the O-1B visa holder. The O-2 applicant can provide evidence of their unique skills and experience to fulfill this requisite by providing proof of recognition, letters of expertise, employer letters, etc. The family members of O-1A principal recipients fall under the O-3 classification. There is no numerical cap placed on the annual issuance of O visa categories.

O-1A Aliens of Extraordinary Ability (Science, Education, Business, or Athletics)

As previously stated, the O-1A category applies to distinguished aliens wishing to travel to the United States temporarily to engage in employment in an area of extraordinary ability including sciences, education, business, or athletics. The O-1A visa category does not include aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts, motion picture and television industry.

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O-1B Aliens of Extraordinary Ability (Arts, Motion Picture, or Television)

The O-1B category applies to distinguished aliens wishing to travel to the United States temporarily to engage in employment in an area of extraordinary ability in the arts, motion picture, or television industry.

O-1A & O-1B Basic Eligibility

In order to qualify for an O-1A visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate that they are exceptionally distinguished in a field of science, education, business or athletics OR for an O-1B visa—in a field of arts, the motion picture or television industry. The requirements for an O-1A and O-1B visa are the same though the documents to be provided in support of the application will differ. Generally, if the beneficiary has received sustained recognition on a national or international level in their area of extraordinary ability by way of awards, titles, honorary distinctions, membership in a distinguished board or professional association, etc., the beneficiary is a good candidate for the O-1 visa category. Evidence of continuous recognition in an area of extraordinary ability is helpful for an O-1 petition. Additionally, the alien must demonstrate that they have achieved a high level of expertise in their field. For an O-1A visa, the alien should demonstrate through documented evidence that they are at the top of their field in their area of extraordinary ability. For an O-1B visa, the same is true however the applicant should demonstrate that their level of skill and recognition is significantly superior to that of an individual in the same field who would be considered a person of ‘prominence’ in said field.

O-2 Visa

The petitioner must file USCIS Form I-129 Petition for Non-immigrant Worker on behalf of the O-2 alien along with the O-1 alien’s petition at least 45 days before the intended start date of employment. Consultation requirements apply and must stem from the appropriate organization. Supporting documents may vary. In general, the petitioner must provide documents in support of the assistant’s essential skills and experience necessary to provide support to the principal O-1 alien for the completion of their work in an extraordinary area of ability in the United states. For specific information on the application process, please contact our office. Once approved, the O-1/O-2 alien can apply for their visa at a US Consulate overseas if residing abroad.

Mandatory Peer Group Consultation O-1A, O-1B, O-2

Consultation with an appropriate peer group, labor, and/or management organization regarding the nature of the work to be done and the alien’s qualifications is mandatory before a petition for an O-1 or O-2 classification can be approved.

The peer group shall be an appropriate association or entity with expertise in that area. The advisory opinion provided by the peer group must describe the alien’s ability and achievements in the field of endeavor, describe the nature of the duties to be performed, and state whether the position requires the services of an alien of extraordinary ability. The written opinion shall contain a statement of facts that support the conclusion reached in the opinion and must be signed by an authorized official of the group or organization.

Contract Relationship: Employers and Agents

An O-1A, O-1B, O-2 applicant cannot file a petition on their own behalf. The petition must be filed by an American employer or agent who will be utilizing the applicant’s skills in a field of extraordinary ability. The employer or agent must enter into a contract (whether oral or written) with the alien and be prepared to demonstrate the terms of the agreement offered and proof that the beneficiary has agreed to those terms (including compensation, work locations, benefits, terms and conditions, etc.). Under an Agent-Employee relationship, if there will be multiple work sites, the agent must provide an itinerary including a description of work to be performed, dates for work performed, and worksite locations. An itinerary does not need to be provided under an Employer-Employee relationship (in the absence of an agent relationship). The employer or agent can provide a copy of the written contract to establish a contract relationship including the terms of the agreement OR evidence of the oral agreement (email correspondence or a summary of the agreement is acceptable) along with the I-129 Petition for Non-immigrant Worker and O Supplement. In order for an agent to act in an ‘employer’ capacity, the agreement (whether written or oral) must affirm the agent’s right to control the beneficiary’s employment in order for the agent to undertake the function of an employer. There is no prevailing wage requirement for an O visa.

O-1A Supporting Documents

The following is a list of some documents that should be included in the O-1A visa petition alone with USCIS Form I-129 Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker and O Supplement. The list is not all inclusive and specific details pertaining to your application should be discussed with a licensed attorney in detail. Additional documents may be necessary depending on the specific case.

The list includes but is not limited to the following items:

Biographical Documents of Beneficiary:

  • Copy of Passport I.D. Page;
  • Copy of U.S. Visa I.D. Page (if applicable);
  • Copy of I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (if applicable);
  • Original I-20’s or DS-2019’s for F1, M1, and J1 visa holders (if applicable):
  • Terms of Agreement to Establish Contractual Relationship;

Documentation Establishing Alien’s Extraordinary Ability

  • Resume/CV;
  • Photocopies of major internationally recognized awards or provide as much of the following as possible:
  • Documentation of the alien’s receipt of a major internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize or other nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought, including the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translations;
  • Evidence of the alien’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought;
  • Evidence of the alien’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of the alien’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Evidence that the alien has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or
  • Evidence that the alien has commanded and now commands a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
  • Evidence establishing that the position requires the services of an alien of extraordinary ability of achievement
  • Documented evidence that the position or services to be performed involve an event(s), production(s), or an activity(ies) that has a distinguished reputation or involves a comparable, newly-organized events(s), production(s), or activity(ies);
  • Documented evidence as proof that the services to be performed are in a lead, starring, or critical role in an activity for an organization or establishment that has a distinguished reputation or record of employing extraordinary persons;
  • Documented evidence proving that the services primarily involve a scientific or educational project, conference, convention, lecture, or exhibit sponsored by bona fide scientific or educational organizations or establishments;
  • Documented evidence proving that the services to be performed consist of a business project that is appropriate for an extraordinary executive, manager, or highly technical person due to the complexity of the business project;

Materials on the Petitioner’s Business

  • Such as brochures, marketing material for goods or services performed, campaigns, press releases, promotional material, company's annual report, media coverage (print or online);

Recommended Evidence

  • Affidavits, contracts, awards, and similar documentation reflecting the nature of the alien’s achievement, executed by the person in charge of the institution, firm, establishment, or organization where prior work was performed;
  • Affidavits written by present or former employers or recognized experts certifying to the recognition and extraordinary ability;
O-1B Supporting Documents

Biographical Documents of Beneficiary:

  • Copy of Passport I.D. Page;
  • Copy of U.S. Visa I.D. Page (if applicable);
  • Copy of I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (if applicable);
  • Original I-20’s or DS-2019’s for F1, M1, and J1 visa holders (if applicable):
  • Terms of Agreement to Establish Contractual Relationship;

Documentation Establishing Alien’s Extraordinary Ability

  • Resume/CV;
  • Evidence of received, nominations, or significant national or international awards or prizes including but not limited to Academy Awards, Grammys, or Director’s Guild Awards;
  • Evidence of major internationally recognized awards or provide as much of the following as possible or comparable evidence;
  • 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, 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, W-2s, paystubs, tax returns, letters from employers, information from the employer as to whether the wage is significantly high as compared to other similar workers, or other reliable evidence;

Evidence of your performance in a leading or critical role for a distinguished organization

  • Website printouts that show the alien’s name, title, and role within the organization, and letters from those organizations describing the alien’s role;
  • Provide any proof that the organization or establishment is recognized as having a distinguished reputation. The relative size or longevity of an organization or establishment is not in and of itself a determining factor;
  • Evidence establishing that the position requires the services of an alien of extraordinary ability of achievement
  • Documented evidence that the position or services to be performed involve an event(s), production(s), or an activity(ies) that has a distinguished reputation or involves a comparable, newly-organized events(s), production(s), or activity(ies);
  • Documented evidence as proof that the services to be performed are in a lead, starring, or critical role in an activity for an organization or establishment that has a distinguished reputation or record of employing extraordinary persons;
  • Documented evidence proving that the services primarily involve a scientific or educational project, conference, convention, lecture, or exhibit sponsored by bona fide scientific or educational organizations or establishments;
  • Documented evidence proving that the services to be performed consist of a business project that is appropriate for an extraordinary executive, manager, or highly technical person due to the complexity of the business project;

Materials on the Petitioner’s Business

  • Such as brochures, marketing material for goods or services performed, campaigns, press releases, promotional material, company's annual report, media coverage (print or online);

Recommended Evidence

  • Affidavits, contracts, awards, and similar documentation reflecting the nature of the alien’s achievement, executed by the person in charge of the institution, firm, establishment, or organization where prior work was performed;
  • Affidavits written by recognized experts certifying to the recognition and extraordinary ability, which shall specifically describe the alien’s recognition and ability or achievement in factual terms and set forth the expertise of the affiant and the manner in which the affiant acquired such information;
  • Letters from current/former employers, co-workers, supervisors, etc. are often considered biased. It is advised to obtain letters from objective/independent sources to add strength to an application.
Duration of Stay and Extensions

The period of stay is the time necessary to provide for the event or activity for which the alien is admitted up to a period of three years. Extensions are granted in one-year increments in order to permit the alien to continue to complete the same event or activity for which he or she was admitted.

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