USA Immigration Work Permits and Visas
Immigration to the US for those with Extraordinary Ability - O-1 Visa
The O-1 visa can be particularly helpful to highly talented or acclaimed persons who may not want to use or do not qualify for other types of visas. The visa can be used for any field of endeavor in the United States of America.
How long can the O-1 visa holder remain in the US?
The regulations impose no limit of the length of admission. However, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service will normally set the initial validity period to three years. Extensions may be obtained for one year at a time. The O-1 visa can potentially lead to a green card.
How to obtain a O-1 Visa
Each O-1 case must be well documented with supporting evidence proving that all legal requirements are met.
The evidence to be submitted will depend on the circumstances and must demonstrate that the applicant is truly extraordinary. However, “Extraordinary” entails a high standard as applied to business persons, scientists, educators and athletes and a lower one as applied to artists and entertainers. Artists and entertainers in the television and motion picture industries fall somewhere in between.
The first step is for the US employer or agent to file a petition with the appropriate Service Center. The petition must include a written advisory opinion from the appropriate union if one exists.
Proving extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics:
The applicant can submit evidence of receipt of a major international award such as the Nobel Prize, Olympic Gold Medal or at least 3 of the following:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized award
- Membership in organization that requires outstanding achievement
- Published materials about the applicant in professional or major trade publication
- Judgment of the work of others
- Original scientific or scholarly work of major significance in the applicant’s field
- Evidence of authorship of scholarly work
- Evidence that he or she has been employed in a critical or essential capacity at an organization with a distinguished reputation
- Has commanded or will command a high salary in relation to others in the field
- Other comparable evidence
Proving extraordinary ability in the arts:
The applicant can submit evidence of nomination for or receipt of a significant international award or prize such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award OR at least 3 of the following:
- Has performed/will perform services as a lead/starring participant in productions/events with distinguished reputations as shown by critical reviews, ads, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
- National/international recognition for achievements through critical reviews, other published materials by or about the applicant in major papers, trade journals/magazines
- Has performed in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by media articles, testimonials, etc.
- Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success
- Has achieved significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, recognized experts
- Has commanded or will command a high salary in relation to others in the field.
- Other comparable evidence
Proving extraordinary achievement in motion picture or TV industry:
The same types of evidence as for the arts category, but the Citizenship and Immigration Service will weigh the evidence differently.
The final step is normally to obtain the O-1 visa from the applicable US Consulate or Embassy. Dependents of the O-1 holder (spouses and children) may normally obtain O-3 visas.
A separate O-2 classification exists for persons who are accompanying and assisting an O-1 artist or athlete in the artistic or athletic performance for a specific event or events.