O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa

U.S. immigration law provides a special class of visa (the O-1 visa) for persons who have an extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Accomplished foreign nationals can use this visa program to work in the United States for an initial period of three years for each new employer, after which this visa may be renewed indefinitely.

To qualify as an “extraordinary ability alien,” the sponsored applicant must demonstrate “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” Specifically, you must be the recipient of either (i) a major, internationally-recognized award or (ii) at least three of the following distinctions:

  • Received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in his area of expertise;
  • Belongs to professional associations requiring outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts;
  • Has been the subject of articles in major media or trade publications relating to his work;
  • Has participated on a panel or as a judge of the work of others in his area of practice;
  • Has made original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance;
  • Has written scholarly articles that have been published in professional journals or other major media;
  • Has worked in a critical or leading role for an organization with a distinguished reputation in the field; and
  • Has commanded a high salary or other compensation.

There are two categories for the O-1 visa:

  • O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
  • O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry

Both categories require an employer petitioner and a written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the group with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability. O-1A applicants must prove they are a person who is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of their field of endeavor. O-1B applicants must prove a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered in the field of arts.

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