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O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa


The O-1 visa category is for individuals of Extraordinary Ability in the sciences, education, business, arts or athletics and individuals of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industries. To be eligible for O-1 visa, an individual must meet the statutory requirement of showing that the individual has a high level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of a small percentage who has risen to the top of his/her field of endeavor.


To qualify for O-1 visa a foreign national must establish through documentation that he/she is in the top of his respective field. This can be established through evidence of receipt of a major, internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize. In absence of such an award one can establish himself as a qualifying alien through at least three of the following types of evidence:


  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence;


  • Membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members;


  • Published material about the candidate in professional or major trade publications or other major media;


  • Evidence that the candidate has judged the work of others, either individually or on a panel;


  • Evidence of the candidate’s original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field;


  • Evidence of the candidate’s authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media;


  • Evidence that the candidate’s work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases;


  • Performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations;


  • Evidence that the candidate commands a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field;


  • Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts.


The requirements for O-1 Status are very similar to those for the EB-1(A) (Alien of Extraordinary Ability) employment based permanent residence category. The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa allowing an individual to temporarily live and be employed in the US while EB-1(A) classification is for those seeking permanent resident status.


The O-1 petition requires an offer of employment. The O-1 petition must be signed by the employer, as self-petitioning is not an option. Distinguishing it from the much more common H-1B visa category, however, is the absence of a prevailing wage requirement, and the inapplicability of a visa cap. This category is also open to positions that do not necessarily require a relevant bachelor’s degree (such as entertainers and athletes) or above, and can allow for continued stay in the U.S. if the six year aggregate limit is reached in H-1B status. The O-1 visa category also allows for change of status from J-1 even if subject to the two-year home country requirement.


There is no set maximum period for O-1 status. Though O-1 extensions can be applied for indefinitely, the length of the status is determined by the length of time needed for the individual to perform his duties or activities with the petitioning employer.


An initial stay is limited to no more than three years, provided the petition can establish that the O-1 candidate will need this much time for the proposed employment. This period may be extended at one-year increments upon evidence showing that the candidate’s continued presence would be required.


Dependents of O-1 visa holders will be granted O-3 visa which will allow them to enter and remain in the U.S. while the principal O-1 visa holder maintains valid and lawful status.


Our firm will assist you in presenting the O-1 petition in a manner which will emphasize your credentials to the USCIS. We will guide you by providing information on the supporting documents to be obtained as well as discussing the factors that should be emphasized in the recommendation letters and how they must be presented. We will also review, edit and recommend necessary changes that will properly highlight your qualifications. In addition to the above, our office will ensure the supporting documents are organized in a proper fashion, including a legal brief specifying how the eligibility requirements for O-1 visa status have been met. We will ensure that the petition is properly filed with the appropriate USICS service center and keep you informed about case progress.



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