IMMIGRATION: O Visas

What is an O-1 Visa? . . . .

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.”

The extraordinary ability must have been demonstrated by “sustained national or international acclaim.”

The O-1 visa is also available to those in motion pictures and television who can demonstrate a record of “extraordinary achievement.”

The requirement has been interpreted broadly to include most creative fields, including photographers, chefs, carpenters and lecturers.

The person must be coming to the United States to work in his or her field of ability, but the position need not require the services of a person of extraordinary ability.

Qualifications for an O-1 Visa:

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate that you possess extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, education, athletics, or the motion picture or television industry.

You must show that you have achieved sustained or international acclaim. You must be coming to the United States to perform temporary services for a U.S. employer relating to an event or events.

Extraordinary ability means that you have achieved a high level of expertise such that you are one of a small percentage at the top of your field. Artists and entertainers must show a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that normally encountered, and is prominent, renowned, leading or well-known in their artistic field.

O-1 visa holders must be entering the United States to perform temporary services for an American employer or an agent of an international employer. You must be entering the United States to participate in a specific event or events which require your expertise. The petition may not be filed more than six months before the services are needed.

Evidence for O-1 Visa Petitions:

The O-1 visa petition requires specific evidence of your qualifications and international recognition of your extraordinary ability. You may prove your ability in the field by showing that you have received an internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize. You can also document at least three of the following:

      • Internationally or nationally recognized prizes or awards;

      • Published material about your work;

      • Membership in an association that requires members
        to have outstanding achievement;

      • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions
        of major significance in the field;

      • Authorship of scholarly articles published in any type of
        major media or professional journals;

      • High salary or any other type of compensation; Participation
        on a panel, or as a judge for other people’s works;

      • Evidence of past employment for organizations or establishments
        that have a high reputation.

If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien's occupation, you may submit comparable evidence in order to establish your eligibility. You will also need to provide a contract between you and your employer that describes the terms and conditions of services to be performed, or a summary of the terms of an oral agreement. For specific events, you should provide a specific itinerary showing the schedule and ending date of events.

Length of Stay and Renewals of O-1 Visa:

An O-1 visa may be granted for up to three years. O-1 visa status may be renewed in one year increments, or until the project is finished. Application Procedures You cannot apply for an O visa on your own behalf. Generally, the employer must petition for the status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You can also file through a U.S. agent. This process is often used when you will work for multiple employers in the United States. Once the petition is approved, you must then apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Assistants of O Visa Holders (the O-2 visa) Foreign nationals who are accompanying an O-1 visa holder and assisting in the performance may be able to obtain an O-2 visa.

To qualify for an O-2 visa,
the assistant must meet the following requirements:

      • Be an integral part of the actual performance;

      • Have critical skills and experience that cannot be
        performed by others;

      • In television and motion pictures, have a long-standing
        working relationship with the O-1 alien.

The petition must include evidence to establish the applicant’s essential role, and that they have skills and experience not possessed by an immediately available US worker.

Dependents of O Visa Holders (the O-3 visa)

Spouses and children of an O-1 visa holder are eligible for admission to the United States in O-3 status. Dependents need to show proof of the family relationship. Dependents may not engage in employment, but may attend school or college.

O-1 Visas and Permanent Residency

O-1 visas allow for “dual intent,” meaning that you may apply for permanent residence without jeopardizing your eligibility for the O-1 visa.

Furthermore, qualification for the O-1 visa category is similar to the requirements for the EB-1A permanent resident category, as Aliens of Extraordinary Ability. Therefore, O-1 visa holders are likely eligible for permanent residence without having to file a labor certification application.

O-1 visas are complex. We advise consulting a qualified immigration lawyer for assistance.

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