O 1 Visa and the O Visas

When it comes to the world’s best and brightest wanting to ply their craft in America, the O Visa or O 1 Visa is as an attractive option for many temporary foreign workers. This visa is intended for persons who demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.

This page was designed to offer some basic information on the O 1 Visa and help those who think they might be eligible decide if they should consult an immigration lawyer. Continue reading to learn more about the following topics:

  • O Visa Basics
  • O Visa Eligibility
  • Applying for an O Visa
  • Can My Family Join Me?
  • Do I Need a Lawyer?

While this page discusses certain subjects related to immigration law, it is not intended as a substitute for speaking directly with a qualified attorney. Federal regulations and filing procedures can be complex, and simple errors can be costly and time consuming. If you have questions about your eligibility to obtain an O Visa, or other temporary visa, contact our office to see how we can help.

O 1 Visa or O Visas for Extraordinary People | OC Immigration Lawyer

O Visa Basics

An O Visa is what is known as a temporary nonimmigrant visa. Unlike permanent visas, which are subject to strict annual limits, O visas are issued more freely because of their temporary nature. This often results in shorter wait times for applicants. One of the key requirements of those applying for this visa is that the applicant represents their stay as temporary. However, unlike other temporary visas, O Visa applicants are not required to keep a permanent residence abroad.

This class of visa is broken down into multiple subgroups, which include the O1A and O1B.

The O1A is granted to persons in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Meanwhile, the O1B is granted to persons in motion picture or TV production. Both classifications require the visa holder to demonstrate extraordinary abilities or achievements of a national or international nature.

Foreign nationals seeking one of the O Visas must be doing so in order to continue working in the U.S. in their usual field. Regardless of which field the foreign national works in, they will be required to provide proof of international acclaim and outstanding achievement during the application process. Depending on the field, different proof will be required. The amount of time allotted by an O Visa varies, but is usually for no more than three years.

O Visa Eligibility

Those seeking an O1 Visa for the sciences, education, business or athletics will need to provide proof of achievement including: receipt of an internationally recognized award such as the Nobel Prize, or at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of national or international awards
  • Membership in an organization requiring outstanding achievement
  • Published material about the applicant in professional or trade publications
  • Judgment of the work of others
  • Original scholarly or scientific work of major significance
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly work
  • Employment at an organization with a distinguished reputation
  • Evidence of high salary in relation to others in the field

In addition to the above evidence of outstanding achievement, the applicant will also need to submit a written advisory from an appropriate union describing his or her ability, as well as duties to be performed. In the event that no such union exists, the applicant may be able to submit nonunion opinions from an expert source.

Those seeking an O1 Visa for the arts must be able to demonstrate prominence in the field through three of the following:

  • Lead in a production with a distinguished reputation
  • Critical reviews in a major paper or trade journal
  • Record of major commercial or critical success
  • Significant recognition from critics, organizations or government agencies
  • A high salary

In addition to the above mentioned evidence of outstanding achievement, an O1 Visa applicant who works in the arts must submit written advisories from relevant union and management groups describing their achievements.

Those wishing to prove outstanding achievement in the Motion Picture or TV industry must demonstrate similar qualifications as in the arts. However, the agency considering the application will require the foreign national to meet a higher standard. This could include an applicant who’s been nominated for an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award. Like O Visa applicants in other fields, the Motion Picture applicant must submit a written advisory from the appropriate union describing the applicant’s achievements.

Applying for an O Visa

Those applying for an O 1 Visa must have a U.S employer willing to sponsor their petition for work. In cases where the person of outstanding ability are self employed, a U.S. agent must file on the foreign national’s behalf. The initial document filed is known as a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129). This is filed through US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).

For those who will be working at multiple locations (such as a touring artist, or athlete in a world series), a full itinerary with locations must be included with the application.

Once USCIS approves the outstanding worker’s petition, he or she is eligible to apply for an O 1 Visa at a US Embassy or consulate abroad. The form filled out there is a DS-160. Once this form is filed, an interview with a consular officer will likely be scheduled. It is ultimately up to the discretion of the consular officer to issue the visa.

Once the visa is approved, the foreign national is free to travel to the U.S. It is important to remember that final approval to enter the U.S. occurs at a port of entry, usually an airport, and is granted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official.

Support Personnel

In some cases an O 1 Visa holder will require assistance during his or her trip to the U.S. This could include film production support personnel or in the case of an athlete, a personal trainer. Support personnel are eligible to apply for O-2 Visa status if they have critical skills necessary to the O 1 Visa holder that cannot be performed by other persons.  In the case of motion picture or TV productions, the O2 must have non-general skills as well as a pre-existing and long-standing relationship with the O1.

Can My Family Join Me?

Generally speaking, yes. Spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) are eligible to apply for O-3 status. Those in the states under this status are not eligible to seek work authorization.

Do I Need an Attorney for an O 1 Visa?

Foreign nationals who wish to apply for an O Visa should hire an immigration attorney. Federal law is complex, as is the immigration system. Even persons of outstanding ability can be overwhelmed when dealing with multiple government agencies. It’s important to remember that simple filing errors can lead to a denial of application — a potentially disastrous scenario for those working under a timeline. Whatever your immigration situation, a good lawyer is highly recommended when applying for a visa. If you have questions about your eligibility to qualify for an O 1 Visa, or any other visa, contact our office to see how we can help.