O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa


The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.
The O nonimmigrant classifications are referred to as:

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

O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance.  For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1

O-3: individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. The eligibility standards applicable to artists and entertainers are lower than those pertaining to scientists, educators, business people or athletes.

While extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor, extraordinary ability in the field of arts only means distinction – a far lower standard. Distinction means prominence or a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition “substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.”

The rules define the term “art” to include “any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts. Not only the principal creators or performers of art may be included in this definition. Also to be included are other essential persons such as, but not limited to, directors, set designers, lighting designers, stage technicians, sound designers, choreographers, conductors, voice or acting coaches, musical supervisors, costume designers and makeup artists.

Where the field of expertise in the arts is narrowly defined, and the applicant can demonstrate that s/he is renowned in that field at least in his or her own country, the O-1 should be obtainable. On this basis, I have successfully obtained  O-1 visas for many “artists” one would not ordinarily think of as artists.

Evidentiary Criteria for O-1A

Evidence that the beneficiary has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor

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

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

Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field

Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought

A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

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

Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation

If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility.

Evidentiary Criteria for O-1B

Evidence that the beneficiary has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

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 releases, publications, contracts or endorsements

Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications

Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.

A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications

Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements

A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation in the arts, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility (this exception does not apply to the motion picture or television industry). As there are so many different prizes awarded by a variety of artistic publications and organizations in individual countries, receipt of these prizes should be included in the submission.