How the O-1 visas work

Excellence is celebrated in every culture and nation, and the United States of America would like to recognize your exceptional ability by offering the non-immigrant work O-1 visa. The O1 visa is designed for individuals who have received distinctions in their field of expertise and who have been hired or are represented by US agents to work in their field within the United States. It is important that individuals and their petitioners (the US employer or agent representing the individual, or beneficiary) work with an immigration lawyer, who can help them determine their eligibility for the O-1 visa and what they will need to provide to prove the beneficiary’s claim of exceptional ability.


There are two kinds of O1 visas: the O-1A visa is for individuals of exceptional ability who specialize in areas of the sciences, business, education, and athletics, and the O-1B visa is specifically for individuals who are distinguished in the film and television industry. For either of these, the petitioner will file the non-immigrant worker petition for the O-1 visa. As mentioned, the petitioner will be the beneficiary’s US employer, a US agent, or the beneficiary’s foreign employer working through a US agent.


Several documents will be required along with the O-1 petition. To begin, the petitioner and the immigration attorney will need to obtain and submit a consultation, which is a written advisory opinion from a labor organization or peer group specializing in the beneficiary’s field of expertise. This consultation is meant to establish the beneficiary’s claim with support from others in his field. If, however, such a group does not exist, the beneficiary will be evaluated according to his personal record. Also, if the beneficiary has received a consultation for an earlier O-1 visa application, he will not need to obtain a new consultation.


The two types of O-1 visa have slightly different methods of proving one’s eligibility, based on the field that the beneficiary has demonstrated exceptional ability. For the O-1A visa, the beneficiary must show evidence that:


  1. He has received a major, internationally recognized award. Examples of this are the Nobel Prize or a Pulitzer Prize; or, like the majority of O-1 applicants,
  2. He meets at least three of the following qualifiers:
  3. He has received nationally or internationally recognized prizes in his field;
  4. He is a member of associations in the applicable fields due to his outstanding achievement, as recognized by his peers and fellow experts;
  5. He and his achievements have been discussed in professional or major trade publications, newspapers, or other media outlets;
  6. He has authored scholarly articles in professional journals or media relevant to his field;
  7. He commands a high salary because of his achievements;
  8. He has contributed significant original scientific, scholarly, or business-related material in his field;
  9. He has served either as an individual judge or on a panel, evaluating others in his field;
  10. He has been employed in a critical role in a distinguished organization or establishment.
  11. OR, if the beneficiary feels that none of the above qualifiers apply to him and his situation, he and his immigration lawyer can discuss submitting comparable evidence to prove his exceptional ability in his particular area.


For the O-1B visa, the beneficiary must show evidence that:


  1. He has received a notable, widely recognized arts or film award, such as an Academy Award, a Grammy, an Emmy, etc; or, like most of the O-1 visa recipients
  2. He meets at least three of the following qualifiers:
  3. He has starred or performed as the lead in productions or artistic events recognized as distinguished by critics, endorsements, publications, etc.;
  4. He has achieved national or international recognition for his accomplishments, as demonstrated by critical reviews, endorsements, publications, etc.;
  5. He has performed a critical role for organizations or establishments with verifiably distinguished reputations;
  6. He can provide a record of commercial or critically acclaimed successes via ratings, box office receipts, or materials published in journals, major newspapers, etc.;
  7. He has received recognition from organizations, critics, governments, or from recognized experts in his field due to his achievements;
  8. He commands a high salary due to his accomplishments.
  9. OR, if the beneficiary feels that none of the above apply to his achievements, he, the petitioner, and their immigration attorney can discuss comparable evidence that would prove his exception ability in his field.


An O-1 visa has an initial lifetime of three years, after which the petitioner can apply for extensions in one-year increments, providing that he can prove that more time is necessary for the beneficiary to complete the work he was contracted for here in the US. O-1 visa applicants with dependents (a spouse or children under 21) can have the petitioner and the immigration lawyer file for O-3 visas on their behalf, and those who have personnel essential to their work can request O-2 visas for their essential support persons.


The help and advise of an immigration attorney will be invaluable during this process, and will ensure that the O-1 visa petition is not denied. Contact an immigration lawyer today.

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