The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa available to foreign nationals who have demonstrated “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.” It is also available to those who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry. The USCIS interprets the statute very broadly to encompass most fields of endeavor. An O-1 visa in science, education, business or athletics is classified as an O-1A visa. To obtain an O-1A visa, applicants must demonstrate that he or she has won a major internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize, or  more commonly by submitting evidence to satisfy three possible categories including:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members
  • Published material in a professional or major trade publication, newspaper or media about foreign applicant’s work
  • Participation as a judge of the work of others in the same or allied fields
  • Evidence of original contributions of significance in the field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations with a distinguished reputation
  • Evidence that the foreign applicant has or will command a high salary
  • Comparable evidence that does not fit within these categories may also be submitted.

An O-1 visa in the arts is classified as an O-1B visa. To obtain an O-1B visa, applicants must demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field, meaning the applicant must demonstrate distinction. The applicant can demonstrate distinction by being the nominee or recipient of an important national or international prize such as an Academy Award, Emmy, or Grammy, or by submitting documentation in at least three of the following categories:

  • Evidence that the foreign applicant has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity released, publications contracts, or endorsements;
  • Evidence that the alien has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the alien has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
  • Evidence that the alien has a record or major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the alien has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the filed in which the alien is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements; or
  • Evidence that the alien has or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidence by contracts or other reliable evidence.

An accompanying spouse and/or any children under the age of 21 may be eligible to apply for an O-3 visa. They will not be eligible to work in the United States under this classification, but they can engage in full-time or part-time study.

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