Q: What is an O-1 extraordinary ability visa?
A: The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa available to foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.
Q: What must be shown to qualify for the O-1 visa?
A: The applicant must demonstrate that he or she possesses a level of expertise indicating that the person is at the very top of their field of endeavor.
Q: How do I prove that I have a I am one of the few at the very top of my field of endeavor?
A: In support of all O-1 petitions, the petitioner must establish that the beneficiary has met the standards or demonstrated that he or she possesses sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in his or her particular field and that the alien is coming to work in that field (but not necessarily that the particular duties to be performed require someone of such extraordinary ability). The following table identifies the regulatory references and documentation for various types of O petitions:
|Type of O-1||Document Requirements||Examples of Documents|
|Science, education, business or athletics||8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(iii)||Major international award (Nobel Prize, major league MVP, etc.); other major awards; membership in organizations which require high achievement; significant published material regarding achievements; scholarly contributions in field; articles written and published in professional journals; prior employment in key role on major projects; high salary offer relative to the field.|
|Arts||8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(iv)||Nomination/receipt of major award (Academy Award, Grammy, etc.); prior starring roles in major productions; significant critical acclaim; significant recognition from governmental organizations or other recognized experts, record of high salary in relation to others in the field.|
|Motion pictures, television||8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(v)||Nomination/receipt of major award (Academy Award, Grammy, etc.); key roles in prior major productions; significant recognition in the field by critics, etc.; major roles in productions with distinguished reputation; major commercial success; significant recognition from governmental organizations or other recognized experts, record of high salary in relation to others in the field.|
The adjudicator must determine whether the alien meets the standards as outlined in the regulations cited above; however, he/she cannot make a favorable determination simply because the petitioner has submitted three of the forms of documentation mentioned. It must be a decision based on whether the total evidence submitted establishes that the alien of extraordinary ability has sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in his field of endeavor; or in the case of an alien of extraordinary ability in the arts and extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, whether he or she has a demonstrated record of high level accomplishment or a high level of achievement (or “distinction”).
Q: What is the petition process?
A: The petition used to apply for the O-1 classification is Form I-129. The I-129 form will also accommodate a request for a change of classification if the alien is already in the U. S. in another nonimmigrant classification. If an alien is already in the U.S. in O-1 status, and a new employer wishes to petition for him or her, the I-129 will be used to request this and an extension of stay for the O-1. The petition must be filed by a U.S. employer or the U.S. agent of a (U.S. or foreign) employer–but not by a foreign employer who is NOT acting through a U.S. agent–on behalf of an individual alien coming to perform services relating to an event or performance.
An O-1 beneficiary may not petition on his or her own behalf. The I-129 petition must be filed with the service center having jurisdiction in the geographical area where the alien will work. If services will be performed in more than one location, it will be filed with the service center servicing the petitioner’s location, or the address which is specified as the petitioner’s address on the petition. If the beneficiary will work concurrently for more than one employer during the same time period, each employer must file a separate petition with the service center having jurisdiction over the area where the alien will perform services, unless an established agent files the petition.
If the O-1 changes employers, the new employer must file a petition with the service center having jurisdiction over the new place of employment.
If conditions of employment change, the petitioner must file an amended petition with the service center where the original petition was filed to reflect any material changes in the terms and conditions of employment or of the beneficiary’s eligibility.
Q: What is an O-2 visa?
A: An O-2 visa is for individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance. For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.
One or more O-2 accompanying aliens may be included on a petition if they are assisting the same O-1 alien for the same events or performances, during the same time and in the same location. However, if the beneficiaries will be applying at different consulates, a separate petition must be filed for each consulate. This is also true for visa-exempt aliens entering through different ports of entry.
Q: Can the O visa be extended?
A: An O visa may be extended in one-year increments for an indefinite period of time. The application for an extension only requires a statement of why the extension is sought.
Q: What is the significance of O status?
A: O-1 status can be a very convenient status category for those who qualify and cannot secure H-1B status due to H-1B’s annual statutory cap.
Q: Can I open a company and sponsor myself O-1?
A: Yes, any US company can sponsor O-1.
Q: Will it be easier for me to apply for EB1(a) alien of extraordinary ability green card once I get an O-1 status?
A: Yes, an O-1 based on extraordinary ability is a good foundation for EB1(a) petition for green card. An O-1 approval means a high likelihood for an EB1a approval.