O-1 Persons of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Visa - USA Immigration

Our Immigration Law Office is one of the top destinations for those seeking an O-1 or O-2 visa. With over 25 years of experience practicing immigration law exclusively, our immigration lawyers are well-trained and understand the meticulous O-1 visa application process. We will prepare and file your application as well as answer any questions you have along the way.

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Celebrity Immigration Lawyers

For over 22 years, our law offices in Miami, New York, and Toronto have represented hundreds of celebrities in the fields of Acting, Music, Film, Art, Science, Business, and Sports. We are known in the field as the foremost “Celebrity Immigration Lawyers”. We have represented world renown Bands, Chefs, Models, Playwrights, Olympic Gold Medalists, Oscar Winners, Directors, and Grammy Winners, as well as Scientists and Authors. To these and all clients, a lawyer from our office is available 24/7 to answer questions about their visa cases. We understand that our celebrity clients require the O-1 visas at the earliest possible date. Thus, our experienced lawyers prepare each O-1 case within 24-48 hours; and can obtain visa approval, in most cases, within ten (10) days.

O-1 Visa Overview

The O-1 visa was established by Section 101(O)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and allows persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, and athletics to enter the U.S. under nonimmigrant O-1 status. Persons in the television or motion picture industry may also qualify if they can show that their work has brought them national or international recognition. In order to qualify, the person must provide evidence to substantiate their extraordinary ability or achievement.

The O-1 visa consists of two categories: the O-1A visa and the O-1B visa. The O-1A visa is designed for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the athletics, business, education, or sciences, whereas the O-1B visa is designed for individuals that possess extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts or television and film industry.

O-1 Visa Requirements

In order to qualify as a person of extraordinary ability, the applicant must demonstrate that they have risen above others in their field to the point where they have gained national and international recognition for their work. They must also show that they are coming to the United States for a temporary period of time in order to continue work related to their field of expertise.

In the fields of athletics, business, education, and science, extraordinary ability refers to a great level of expertise, in which the applicant falls within the top few percent of individuals in their respective field.

In the fields of arts, extraordinary ability refers to distinction. The applicant must show that they have a much greater level of skill and recognition than the majority of individuals in their respective field, indicating that they can be described as a leading or prominent individual in the arts.

In the field of the television and film industry, extraordinary ability refers to a skill or recognition that far exceeds that normally found in the industry. The person must be described as outstanding, notable, or a leader in their field.

O-1 Visa Application Process

To apply for an O-1 visa, the petitioner must file Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The petition must be filed within a year of the alien’s need of coming to the United States. In order to ensure that the visa is approved in the appropriate time period, one should file Form I-129 at least 50 days before the alien is to continue their work in the United States.

O-1 Visa Consultation Requirement:

Waiving of the O-1 Consultation Requirement:

O-1 Visa Contract Between the Petitioner and the Beneficiary (Person of Extraordinary Ability)

A written agreement or contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary (person of extraordinary ability) must be provided with the I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. An oral agreement may be included instead of a written agreement or contract. The oral agreement may consist of emails, written documents regarding the terms of the agreement, and other correspondences between the petitioner and beneficiary that verifies than an oral agreement was made between the parties. The terms and conditions must include what both parties agree to by entering into the agreement.

O-1 Visa Agent

An agent may be used in the O-1 visa process. The agent can be the employer, represent the petitioner/employer, represent the beneficiary (person of extraordinary ability) or both. 

In the case where the person of extraordinary ability will be working in the United States under multiple employers, an agent can act as the petitioner and represent the other employers. In this case, the agent can file the I-129 Petitions for the multiple employers.

If the agent is to act as the petitioner for the multiple employers, the agent must include the following information with the I-129 petitions:

After the I-129 petition is approved, the person of extraordinary ability may travel to a U.S. embassy or Consulate in order to obtain their visa.

The O-1 Agent Can Act as The Employer

In O-1 cases where the agent acts as the employer of the person of extraordinary ability, the agent must include the following information with the I-129 petition:

Contracts/Agreements

Based upon the provided contract or agreement with the I-129 petition, the USCIS will ultimately determine whether the agent is acting as the employer or whether the agent is representing the employer, multiple employers, the beneficiary, or a combination thereof. Therefore the contract should specifically include the relationship between the beneficiary (person of extraordinary ability) and the agent, including but not limited to how, when, and the amount that the agent will be paid.

O-1 Classification Based on Requirements

O-1A Visa Requirements

In order to be considered for an O-1A visa, the person of extraordinary ability must be able to provide evidence that they have received an internationally acclaimed award, such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic Gold Medal, or the person of extraordinary ability must provide three of the following:

The petitioner may submit other evidence to substantiate the claim of extraordinary ability if the above criteria do not readily apply to the field of expertise.

O-1B Visa Requirements

To qualify for an O-1B visa, the petitioner must provide evidence that the person of extraordinary ability has been nominated for or has received a significant national or international award, such as an Academy Award Grammy or provide at least three of the following:

If the beneficiary’s field of expertise is in the field of the arts, and the above criteria does not generally apply, the petitioner may provide other appropriate documentation to verify that the beneficiary demonstrates extraordinary ability and expertise in their field.

O-1 Visa Change in Employer

If while under an O-1 visa the person of extraordinary ability changes employers, the new employer must file a new Form I-129. The new petition must include information on the new employer including new contracts and service agreements. If an agent filed the initial I-129, then new information regarding the new employer must be accompanied by a request for an extension of stay.

O-1 Visa Change in Terms and Conditions of Employment

If there have been any changes in the terms and conditions of employment in O-1 visa cases, the petitioner must file an amended petition on Form I-129. The petition must be sent to the same USCIS center in which the original I-129 was filed. In the Case of athletes, if an athlete is traded to another team, legal employment may continue for 30 days. Within the 30 day period, the new employer must file a new I-129; otherwise the employee will lose employment authorization. If the petition is denied, then the employee will lose employment authorization and be out of status.

O-1 Visa Period of Stay

The O-1 visa is valid for up to three years. The O-1 visa holder may enter the United States 10 days before the validity period of the visa and end 10 days after the validity period ends. The beneficiary must only engage in employment upon which their visa was based.

O-1 Visa Extension of Stay

An extension of stay can be granted if an extension is needed in order for the beneficiary to complete or continue the activities mentioned in the initial I-129.

In order to apply for an extension of stay the petitioner must complete and file Form I-129, and submit a copy of the person of extraordinary ability’s Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94). The petitioner must also provide a written statement from the person of extraordinary ability, stating the reason for the extension.

O-3 Visa For Spouse and Children of O-1 and O-2 Visa Holders

O-1 and O-2 visa holder's spouse and children under 21 years of age are allowed to reside in the United States under O-3 status, as long as the O-1 or O-2 visa remains valid.

O-3 Visa Extension of Stay

In order for O-3 visa holders to obtain an extension of stay, the O-1 or O-2 visa holder must also be seeking an extension of stay. The spouse and children must submit Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and provide supporting documentation to show why need an extension of stay, along with the O-1 or O-2 visa holder.

O-2 Visas for Individuals to Accompany O-1 Visa Holders

The O-2 nonimmigrant visa is designed for support staff of O-1 status holders. Those on O-2 status may accompany the O-1 artist or athlete in order to assist them with their activities. In the case of an O-1A visa, the presence of the O-2 individual must be essential for the O-1 visa holder’s activities in the United States. In the case of O-1B visas, the O-2 must have critical skills and great experience in the O-1 visa holder’s field of expertise, which makes the position unavailable to U.S. workers. The O-1B visa holder must show that the presence of the O-2 worker is necessary for the success of the O-1 status holder.

O-2 Visa Application Process

The petitioner must file Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant worker with the USCIS office listed on the form. The petitioner must file Form I-129 for the prospective O-2 employee at the same time the I-129 is filed for the O-1 individual. The petitioner must file the I-129 not more than one year before the O-1 and O-2 immigrant will begin their work in the United States. The I-129s should be filed at least 50 days before the aliens will begin employment, in order to avoid any delays processing the visa.

O-2 Visa Consultation Requirement:

In the case of O-2 visas in the arts and athletics, the consultation must be from the appropriate labor organization. In the case of O-2 visas in the television or film industry, the consultation must come from the appropriate labor organization and management organization with recognized expertise in the O-2’s respective field.

Required Documentation for O-2 Visas:

The petitioner must show that the O-2 beneficiary possesses the appropriate skills and experience in their field of expertise, wherein the O-2’s presence is essential for the success of the O-1 beneficiary. In the case of O-2 visas for the television and film industry, the petitioner must show that the skills and expertise of the O-2 is essential for the success of the production. In addition, the petitioner must provide evidence that major productions have taken place by the O-1 and O-2 beneficiaries outside the United States and will take place in the United States if granted permission to enter the U.S.

O-1 Visa FAQ

Are there any O-1 Visa Wage Requirements?

There are no specific wage requirements or guidelines. However, the O-1 visa petition must still include information on the wage offered to the beneficiary.

Are there any travel restrictions while on O-1 status?

There are no travel restrictions.

Can O-1 Visa cases be expedited?

Yes, the O-1 visa processing time can be reduced to 15 calendar days. The USCIS allows for a premium processing service, where Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service is filed along with the premium processing fee of $1,225.

Can I change status to O-1 visa status?

Yes, you may change your status as long as you are qualified for the O-1 visa. Those that have entered the United States under J-1 status and are subject to the two year J-1 foreign residency requirement are not allowed to change status to O-1 visa status, while in the United States.

Can I change status from a J-1 visa to an O-1 visa?

Yes, you may change status from a J-1 status to O-1 status while in the U.S. as long as you did not enter the United States for graduate medical training. You may also change from a J-1 to an O-1 if you are not subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement or were able to obtain a waiver. J-1 visa holders that are subject to INA §212(E) may also apply for an O-1 visa through third country processing, where the applicant apply for the visa at a U.S. consulate in a country other than their home country. In addition, if you entered the U.S. for graduate medical training or are subject to INA §212(E), your employer may still file forvisa and if approved, you must obtain the visa outside of the United States.

Can O-3 visa holders work in the United States?

No, those on O-3 status cannot work in the U.S.

Can O-1 visa holders work for more than one employer?

Yes, they make work for more than one employer, even at the same time, as long as both employers filed separate petitions with the USCIS.

Can O-1 visa holders change employers?

Yes, they may change employers, as long as the new employer files Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the alien of extraordinary ability. If the O-1 petition was filed by an agent, then the agent must file an amended petition and request for an extension of stay, along with supporting documentation regarding the new employer and the alien’s duties and responsibilities.

Can I study while on an O-1 visa?

You may engage in part time study, but cannot be a full time student, as this defeats the purpose of the O-1 visa.


Written by:Mark Carmel

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References

Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (USCIS)

8 USC § 1101 - Immigration Law Definitions

Immigration Application Fees

Alien of Extraordinary Ability Premium Processing

USCIS Temporary Worker Visas

USCIS Application Forms

USCIS Questions About Visas

U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin

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