O-1 Visas

An O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics or those who have demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. The O-1A visa is for those with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics. The O-1B visa is for those with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the movie and television industries.

Qualifications for an O-1 Visa

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by showing sustained national or international acclaim and you must be coming to the U.S. to continue work in your area of extraordinary ability. For the areas of science, education, business and athletics, extraordinary ability means having achieved "a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of a small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor."

Application Process for an O-1 Visa

Your US employer or agent can apply for your O-1 visa up to a year in advance by filing a Form I-129 along with the required evidence. The evidence typically must include:

  • A written advisory opinion (known as a Consultation) from experts in the field or peer groups in the US attesting to your recognition in the field and your extraordinary ability;
  • A written contract between you and the US employer or evidence of your oral contract;
  • An explanation of the nature of proposed employment; and
  • Extensive documentation of your "extraordinary ability" which requires documenting you are the recipient of an internationally recognized award (like a Nobel Prize) or at least three of the following:
  1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  2. Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field;
  3. Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought;
  4. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  5. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought;
  6. A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
  7. Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought; or
  8. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

What's the Difference Between an O-1 Visa and an EB-1?

An O-1 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that allows you to come to the US to work and live. The EB-1 is a category or classification for an immigrant petition. In other words, the O-1 is a visa status and the EB-1 is a category for applying for a green card. Most importantly, just because an individual meets the level of "extraordinary" for the purposes of an O-1 visa does not mean they necessarily meet the standard of "extraordinary" for an EB-1 classification.


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