The O-1 Visa may be an option for individuals who can demonstrate Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Education, Business or Athletics (the highest standard), “Distinction” in the Arts (the lowest standard), or “Extraordinary Achievement” in the Motion Picture or Television industry (intermediate standard). Note that the standards for the arts and for television and film are lower than that for science, education, business or athletics (the arts standard is substantially lower than that for business, science and athletics).
An O-1 Visa may be granted for a period of up to 3 years. Extensions may be authorized for periods of up to one year to continue or complete the event(s) for which the O-1 Visa holder was initially admitted into the US. The O-1 Visa can be extended indefinitely.
The O-1 Visa standard for the Arts is considerably lower than that for Business, Science, Education and Athletics or for Extraordinary Achievement in Motion Pictures or Television. However, the EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card standard is the same for all areas of expertise, and is equivalent to the O-1 standard for extraordinary ability in business, science education or athletics (O-1A). Those who do not qualify for the higher EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card standard must seek another alternative should they be interested in US permanent residence.
To meet the O-1 Visa Extraordinary Ability standard in the Sciences, Education, Business or Athletics, an O-1 candidate must show sustained national or international acclaim in his or her field of expertise, i.e., “a level of expertise indicating that s/he is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” Specifically, evidence must consist of either (a) receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, a Grammy or Oscar nomination or similar major award, or (b) at least 3 of the following:
If the above criteria do not readily apply to the O-1 candidate’s field, then comparable evidence may be submitted.
Overall, an O-1 Visa candidate should demonstrate some major impact on his or her field. USCIS has indicated in recent guidance that demonstrating 3 or more of the listed set of regulatory criteria may not be enough for approval of a petition in the O-1 Visa category.
To qualify for an O-1 Visa in the Arts (except for Television or Film; for that standard, O-1C, see below), candidates must demonstrate “distinction,” or “a degree or 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.” Specifically, candidates must provide: (a) evidence of nomination for, or receipt of, major national or international awards or prizes in their particular field of expertise, such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, a Director’s Guild Award, the Nobel Prize, Putlitzer Prize, National Book Award, etc. or equivalent; or (b) at least 3 of the following:
To qualify as a person of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry for O-1 Visa purposes, a candidate must demonstrate a “record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry” as shown by (a) evidence that candidate has been nominated for or has received significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy or a Director’s Guild Award, or (b) at least 3 of the following:
Note that O-1 Visa candidates in television and film do not have a “catch-all” category that allows them to submit “other comparable evidence” to demonstrate their extraordinary achievements in the industry. This may make a petition in this O-1 Visa sub-category more challenging.
In addition to meeting the criteria for O-1 Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (see below), the regulations require an O-1 candidate to provide a written Consultation from a US Peer Group (unless no appropriate peer group exists for the candidate’s field of expertise). A Peer Group Consultation might also include a person or persons with expertise in the candidate’s field of endeavor.
If a labor or management organization exists in the candidate’s field, USCIS requires a consultation from that organization stating that, at minimum, that organization has “no objection” to the O-1 Visa candidate entering the US to work.
Timing for the O-1 Visa varies substantially (2 to 4 months) depending on where the petition is filed; timing can change dramatically in accordance with USCIS priorities. However, one can file an expedited petition for an additional fee payable to USCIS (the US Government). This expedite fee guarantees processing within 15 calendar days of filing. However, this premium processing does NOT guarantee a final decision within 15 days. Even in petitions that have used premium processing, USCIS may request additional evidence (known as a request for further evidence, or RFE), which restarts the clock for another 15 days upon receipt of such additional evidence. Requests for additional evidence on an O-1 visa petition, particularly in the current climate, can be unpredictable. However, we have found that generally, the stronger the evidence presented with the initial petition, the less likely that USCIS will issue an RFE.
The O-2 Visa (different from the O-3 Visa, which is for an O-1 Visa holder’s immediate relatives) is for individuals who wish to accompany an O-1 Visa holder in the Arts, Motion Picture and Television productions or Athletics. (No comparable O-2 Visa accompanying alien category exists for individuals in the fields of Business, Science and Education.) An O-2 Visa petition must be in conjunction with the services of an O-1 Visa holder, and the O-2 Visa holder is not allowed to work apart from the O-1 Visa.
O-2 Visa candidates must meet the following criteria:
In addition to the above, O-2 Visa holders who accompany an O-1 television or film artist must: