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O-1 NONIMMIGRANT VISA

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. The O Nonimmigrant classification is classified as follows:

  1. O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
  2. O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
  3. O-2: 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‚Äôs assistance must be an ‚Äúintegral part‚ÄĚ of the O-1A‚Äôs activity. For an O-1B, the O-2‚Äôs assistance must be ‚Äúessential‚ÄĚ to the completion of the O-1B‚Äôs 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
  4. O-3: individuals who are the spouses or children of O-1’s and O-2’s

The key to success in obtaining an O-1 visa is in defining the field of endeavor.

  • The ‚ÄėO‚Äô category is for highly talented or nationally or internationally acclaimed foreign nationals who may not qualify in other Nonimmigrant categories such as ‚ÄėH‚Äô, ‚ÄėL‚Äô or ‚ÄėJ‚Äô. Sometimes, people may like to avoid these categories for various reasons. The category is especially very helpful to Business Professionals, Entertainers, Artists, and Athletes who lack professional degrees. The ‚ÄėO‚Äô category is a useful and flexible alternative to the H-1B program because there is no wage maintenance feature, no overall limit on time in classification, and no quota or cap restrictions.

Main Requirements

O-1 beneficiaries in the Sciences, Arts, Education, Business, or Athletics must have extraordinary ability ‚Äúdemonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. The achievements of all types of O-1 beneficiaries must be ‚Äúrecognized in the field through extensive documentation‚ÄĚ.

The following documentary evidence must be submitted with the O-1 Application:
  1. Consultation

    A written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the group with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability. If the O-1 petition is for an individual with extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television, the consultation must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability.

    Exceptions to the Consultation Requirement:

    If the petitioner can demonstrate that an appropriate peer group, including a labor organization, does not exist, the decision will be based on the evidence of record. A consultation may be waived for an alien with extraordinary ability in the field of arts if the alien seeks readmission to perform similar services within 2 years of the date of a previous consultation. Petitioners should submit a waiver request and a copy of the previous consultation with the petition.

  2. Contract between petitioner and beneficiary

    A copy of any written contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed should be provided.

    The summary of the terms of the oral agreement must contain:
    • What was offered by the employer? and
    • What was accepted by the employee?
  3. Itineraries

    An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities, if applicable needs to be provided. The petitioner must establish that there are events or activities in the beneficiary’s field of extraordinary ability for the validity period requested, e.g. an itinerary for a tour or a series of events.

Eligibility Criteria for O-1A

In addition to the above required documents, petitioner should also prove “extraordinary ability by providing evidence either of the beneficiary’s receipt of a “major, internationally recognized award, such as Nobel Prize, or documentation of at least three of the following:

  1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes/awards for excellence in the field;
  2. Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts;
  3. Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the alien and the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought;
  4. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  5. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  6. Past or current proffered high salary or other remuneration for services evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
  7. Participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought;
  8. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

Eligibility Criteria for O-1B

Evidence that the beneficiary has received, or has been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director's Guild Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications;
  5. 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;
  6. A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence.

Evidentiary Criteria for O-2

The evidence should establish the current essentiality, critical skills, and experience of the O-2 beneficiary with the O-1 beneficiary and that the beneficiary has substantial experience performing the critical skills and essential support services for the O-1.

In the case of a specific motion picture or television production, the evidence should establish that significant production has taken place outside the United States and will take place inside the United States, and that the continuing participation of the O-2 beneficiary is essential to the successful completion of the production.

Consultation for O-2

If the O-2 petition is for support of an individual with extraordinary ability in athletics or the arts, the consultation must be from the appropriate labor organization; or if the O-2 petition is for support of an individual with extraordinary achievement in motion pictures or television, the consultation must come from an appropriate labor organization and a management organization with expertise in the skill area involved.



Exception: If Petitioner demonstrates that an appropriate peer group, including a labor organization, does not exist, then USCIS will make a decision based on the evidence of record.

Frequently Asked Questions

O-1 Visa or Status Questions

What is O-1 visa?

The O-1 visa is a non- immigrant employment-based visa classification for foreign nationals who can demonstrate their sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for their achievements in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. It requires the employer file a petition for a nonimmigrant worker, along with evidence of the individual’s extraordinary ability.

The individuals must have ‚Äúextraordinary ability‚ÄĚ in the field of expertise. Such ability must be extensively documented.

The O-1 visa is also available to those in arts, motion pictures and television who can demonstrate a record of ‚Äúextraordinary achievement‚ÄĚ. The USICS interprets the statute very broadly to encompass most fields of creative endeavor. The person entering the US must be coming to work in their field of ability.

An individual seeking an O-1 visa must have a sponsor. This means that the visa is employer specific and a job offer is needed from the sponsoring employer.

What are the requirements for O-1A qualification?

Petitioner should prove ‚Äúextraordinary ability‚ÄĚ by providing evidence either of the beneficiary‚Äôs receipt of a ‚Äúmajor, internationally recognized award, such as Nobel Prize‚ÄĚ, or documentation of at least three of the following:
  1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes/awards for excellence in the field;
  2. Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts;
  3. Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the alien and the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought;
  4. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  5. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  6. Past or current proffered high salary or other remuneration for services evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
  7. Participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought;
  8. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

What are the requirements for O-1B qualification?

Petitioner should prove that he/she has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director's Guild Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:
  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications;
  5. 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
  6. A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence.

What is the advisory opinion?

Before an O-1 visa can be granted, the applicant must go through a special consultation process. The applicant must get an ‚Äúadvisory opinion‚ÄĚ from a peer group (a group of professionals in the alien‚Äôs occupation or profession) or from a union, labor, or management organization. An ‚Äúadvisory opinion‚ÄĚ is a letter from an organization stating that the position the applicant will hold requires extraordinary ability.

What if no appropriate union exists in the case of arts?

Consultation with an appropriate peer group, labor and/or management organization regarding the nature of the proposed work and the beneficiary’s qualifications is mandatory before an O-1 petition can be approved. This requirement may be especially important in the arts, entertainment fields, or athletics.

Advisory consultations are labor consultations, unless no appropriate union exists. In this situation, employers may submit an advisory opinion from an individual expert in the field, a peer group, or management organization that describes the beneficiary’s ability and achievements, the nature of the duties to be performed, and whether the services require someone of extraordinary ability.

Can the individual work for more than one employer?

The answer is yes. If the individual works for more than one employer at the same time, each employer must file a separate petition with the USICS.

What will happen if the employment of the O-1 holder is terminated?

If the employment is terminated for reasons other than voluntary resignation, the employer is liable for the reasonable cost of return transportation of the individual to his/her last place of residence prior to entry into US.

What if the O-1 visa applicant has a permanent labor certification or has filed a preference petition for permanent residence?

Regulation states that the approval of a permanent labor certification or filing of a preference petition for permanent residence shall not be a basis for denying an O-1 petition, a request to extend such a petition, or the alien’s application for admission, change of status, or extension of stay.

How long can one maintain O-1 status?

There is no maximum period for O-1 status. Theoretically, it can be indefinite. However, the length of the status is determined by the length of time needed for the alien to perform his/her duties or activities with the US employer.

An initial stay is limited to no more than three years, provided the petition can establish that the O-1 alien will need this much time for the proposed employment. This period may be extended at one-year increments thereafter, upon evidence showing that the alien’s continued presence would be required. An O-1 visa can be extended on a yearly basis for an indefinite period. The Form I-129 is to be filed by the employer to seek extension. Though the application for an extension does not include a consultation, it however requires a statement of the reason for an extension.

What type of visa will family members hold?

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may apply for O3 visa or status, in order to accompany the O-1 visa holder to the US. The O3 visa status does not confer authorization for employment in the US.

What is the O2 visa?

An O2 visa can be obtained for those accompanying the O-1 visa holder who will assist the O-1 alien in their performance. To qualify for an O2 visa, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a vital role in the central performance
  • Have essential skills and a wealth of experience that is above average standards;
  • Have a committed professional association with the O-1 visa holder;
  • Must prove the possession of a foreign residence, which will not be abandoned. A specific date of exit should also be expressed. Must gain a labor consultation from the Labor Organization.

Evidence must be submitted to establish the applicant’s essential role, and that they have skills and experience not possessed by an immediately available US worker.

What is the extension of stay for O3 Visa?

The dependents of O-1 or O2 visa holders are allowed to stay till the time the principal applicant accomplishes the task. The dependent has to file a petition on the Form I-539 for an extension. The extension is given in yearly increments, since the O-1 and O2 visa is employer specific, and O3 visa holder are the dependents i.e. the spouse and unmarried minor children of the O-1 visa holders.

I am in J-1 status subject to the 2-year home country residence requirements. May I apply for O-1 status in U.S. to continue my research project?

As a J-1 holder, you can change to O-1 visa, but you have to apply for an O-1 visa from a U.S. Consulate abroad, because you may not change to a Nonimmigrant status in the U.S. before you satisfy the two years home country residence requirement or obtain a waiver to the requirement.

Your employer needs to file an O-1 petition. Once the O-1 petition is approved, you need to apply for O-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. After you obtain an O-1 visa, you can enter the U.S. without fulfilling the two year residency requirement or getting a waiver of the requirement.

As an employment related nonimmigrant status, what is difference between O-1 and other employment related nonimmigrant status, like H-1B?

O-1 Status is distinguished from other employment related statuses in that it applies to more types of work areas than other employment related nonimmigrant statuses. For instance, H-1B status is limited to foreign professionals with at least a bachelor’s degree for a specialty occupation, which cannot apply to alien athletes or entertainers without such educational background. However, such athletes or entertainers can apply for O-1 status. Moreover, the requirements of O-1 are much higher than that of H-1B. Also, O-1 status could be obtained by those in H-1B status who have exhausted the full-authorized stay.

Immigration Attorney Ramesh Khurana O-1 Visas


The information contained on this site is offered only for general informational and educational propose and does not constitute a legal advice or opinion. All efforts are being made to keep this information current, but it may not be guaranteed that it applies to your specific case, and should not be relied upon or acted without seeking the advice of qualified attorney.