What is an O-1 Visa?

An O-1 visa is a non-immigrant, temporary worker visa granted to aliens with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. The visa is further subdivided into two different categories –– O-1A and O-1B. O-1A refers to aliens with extraordinary abilities in all fields excepting the arts. O-1B refers to aliens with an extraordinary ability in the motion picture or television industry. The O-2 visa is for individuals who will accompany and assist in the artistic or athletic performance of an O-1 alien. There is no quota on the number of O visas issued each year.

O-1 Visa Requirements

The USCIS defines “extraordinary ability” in two slightly different ways. For applicants of an O-1A visa, extraordinary ability means expertise. For applicants of an O-1B visa, extraordinary ability is measured in distinction. So for an alien to obtain an O-1 visa, they must possess a high level of skill in a field, in addition to recognition that their skills are substantially above others in their industry. 

For an alien to successfully apply for an O-1A visa, they must have received a major, internationally recognized award in addition to three other elite criteria including (but not limited to):

  • Membership in associations for which classification is sought which requires outstanding achievement.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers, or other major media.
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance.
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals.
  • A high salary.

On the other hand, to obtain an O-1B visa, the applicant must prove that they received or been nominated for international awards or prizes in their field in addition to three different criteria such as:

  • Starring in productions which have a distinguished reputation.
  • Achieving national or international recognition for achievements.
  • Performed or will perform a starring role for organizations with distinguished reputations.
  • Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success.
  • Significant recognition for achievements from organizations in their field.
  • A high salary.

In general, it is considered more difficult to obtain an O-1A visa than an O-1B visa.

O-1 Visa Application Process 

The application process for the O visa includes the sponsor and/or applicant filing a petition with the USCIS. That petition is form I-129, and it should be filed 45 days before the date of employment. In addition, applicants should include consultation from a peer group or person with expertise in the applicant’s field. The application waiting period will fluctuate, but, in general, it is several months. The USCIS offers an option for premium processing. For a $1,225 fee, the USCIS will process the petition in 15 days.

O-1 Visa Sponsor Requirements

In the event that no appropriate peer group or labor organization exists that can produce adequate consultation for an O-1 petition, the USCIS will base their decision on evidence of record. Other sponsorship stipulations include a copy of any written contract between the petitioner and the applicant. The USCIS will also accept an oral contract between the two as sufficient evidence. Agents may also act as both representative and employer of the applicant in certain situations.

Contact an O-1 Visa Lawyer

Our managing attorney Karen-Lee Pollak and experienced immigration support team work with the sponsor and/or applicant to submit the most complete and thorough petition, which emphasizes the applicant’s education, qualifications, and experience. In addition, Pollak PLLC knows the processes and procedures to work with various government agencies to ensure the best possible outcome. Please contact us to discuss your immigration options.

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