O-1 Visas for Persons with Extraordinary Ability

Purpose of O-1 / Meaning of Extraordinary Ability / Advisory Opinions / Support Personnel / Family Members

Purpose of O-1 Visas

The O-1 classification is reserved for persons with "extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim." To qualify, persons must be coming to the United States to work in their areas of extraordinary ability.

There is no annual cap, or limit, on O-1 visas. O-1 visas are issued for an initial period of three years. One-year extensions are available without limit.

Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics are issued O-1A visas. Persons with extraordinary ability in the arts, television, or film are issued O-1B visas.

The first step in obtaining an O-1 visa is for an employer in the United States to file a Form I-129, Petition for Alien Worker with an O and P Classifications Supplement. Once the Form I-129 petition is approved, the beneficiary of the petition may apply for an O-1 visa at a United States consulate or embassy abroad.

Meaning of Extraordinary Ability

Extraordinary ability in science, education, business, or athletics is defined as "a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor."

To prove "sustained national or international acclaim" in science, education, business, or athletics, a person with extraordinary ability must show receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, or must provide evidence of at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards;
  • Membership in organizations that require outstanding achievement;
  • Published materials about the person in professional or trade publications;
  • The person has judged the work of others in the field;
  • Original scientific or scholarly work that has major significance in the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly work;
  • Employment in a key position at an organization with a distinguished reputation; or
  • The person commanded or will command a high salary compared to others in the field.

Extraordinary ability in the arts, television, or film requires "a high level of achievement" that is "evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered." The artist must be "prominent in his or her field of endeavor."

To prove prominence in his or her field of endeavor, a person with extraordinary ability in the arts, television, or film must prove nomination for, or receipt of, a big national or international award, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award, or must provide evidence of at least three of the following:

  • Critical reviews in major newspapers or trade journals;
  • Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success;
  • Significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field;
  • The person was the lead in a production having a distinguished reputation;
  • The person has been employed in a key position at an organization that has a distinguished reputation; or
  • The person commanded or will command a high salary compared to others in the field.

Advisory Opinion for O-1 Visa Petition

Petitions for O-1 visa applicants must include an advisory opinion from an appropriate organization (if one exists) describing the O-1 visa applicant’s ability and achievements and a description of the work to be done in the United States. New advisory opinions are not required for extensions of stay. Nor are they required for O-1 visa holders in the arts who are re-entering the United States to perform similar work within two years of first obtaining an advisory opinion.

Petitions for O-1 visa applicants in television and film must include an advisory opinion from an appropriate organization and from a management group. The advisory opinions should describe the O-1 visa applicant’s ability and achievements in television or film.

Support Personnel for O-1 Visa Holders

Persons who are assisting an O-1 with an artistic or athletic performance are eligible to travel to the United States on O-2 visas.

Applicants for O-2 visas have to show that they are essential to the work of the O-1 they seek to follow. This may be shown by providing evidence that the applicant has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that a U.S. worker does not have.

O-2 visa applicants wish to come to the Untied States to work in television or film must show:

  • Critical skills and experience with the O-1 based on a longstanding working relationship with the O-1; or
  • If coming to work on a specific production, show that work has taken and will take place in and out of the United States, and the applicant is essential for completing the production.

Petitions for O-2 visa applicants must contain advisory opinions from each organization with expertise over the work of the O-2 visa applicants. The advisory opinion should describe why the O-2 visa applicant is essential to the work of the O-1 and the history of the working relationship between the two.

Petitions for O-2 visa applicants in television and film must include an advisory opinion from an appropriate organization and from a management group. The advisory opinions should describe the O-2 visa applicant’s skills and experience with the O-1 and the history of their working relationship. If the petition for the O-2 visa applicant is for the purpose of continuing work on a specific production, the advisory opinion should describe how the O-2 visa applicant’s work is essential to the completion of the production.

O-3 Visas for Family Members of O-1 Visa Holders

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany O-1 visa holders on O-3 visas. O-3 visa holders may not work in the United States.