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O-1 Visa: Extraordinary Ability

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includinCheering Crowd - dv097093; O-1 Visa: Extraordinary AbilityThe O-1 Visa is available to individuals who can demonstrate Extraordinary Ability in their field of expertise. Three standards exist for the O-1, depending on the area of endeavor. The most difficult standard is “extraordinary ability,” for Sciences, Education, Business or Athletics. “Extraordinary Achievement” in Film or Television has an intermediate degree of difficulty among the three O-1 standards. Finally, the least challenging O-1 visa standard is “Distinction” in the Arts.

USCIS may grant an O-1 up to 3 years. They may authorize O-1 extensions for up to one year to continue or complete the O-1 event(s). Qualified individuals may extend an O-1 Visa indefinitely.

Basic O-1 Visa Requirements for all Fields of Expertise

  • O-1 Visa candidate wishes to enter the US to perform services relating to event(s), including employment.
  • Candidate has a US employer or agent to serve as an O-1 sponsor. The O-1 Visa is valid ONLY to perform work for sponsoring employer or agent. To work for additional employers or agencies, the O-1 candidate must file separate O-1 petitions; or must perform work in US via sponsoring employer/agent. O-1 candidates with an agent rather than an employer must provide an itinerary of events for the duration of the O-1 term.
  • The O-1 Visa candidate must demonstrate either: (1) Extraordinary ability in Business, Science, Education or Athletics; (2) Distinction in the Arts; or (3) Extraordinary Achievement in Film or Television. (See below for standards for each area of expertise).

The O-1 arts standard is considerably lower than those for Business, Science, Education and Athletics or for Film or Television. But, the EB-1 Extraordinary Ability standard to obtain Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) status is the same for all areas of expertise. It is equivalent to the O-1 extraordinary ability standard (O-1A), the most difficult of the three. Those who do not qualify for the higher EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card standard must seek another alternative if interested in permanent residence.

Three O-1 Visa Standards

1. Extraordinary Ability in Business, Science, Education or Athletics (O-1A)

The toughest O-1 standard, “extraordinary ability,” is applicable to the most common fields. These include, broadly, business, the sciences, education and athletics. To meet the O-1 Visa Extraordinary Ability standard, one must show “sustained national or international acclaim. That is, they must demonstrate that they are “one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field.” Evidence must consist of either: (a) receipt of major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, Grammy or Oscar nomination or similar major award; or (b) at least 3 of the following:

  • Employment in critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments with a distinguished reputation.
  • Original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about candidate relating to candidate’s work in the field.
  • Participation on panel or individually as judge of the work of others in same or allied field.
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media.
  • High Remuneration: Has received or will receive high salary or other remuneration for services in relation to others in the same field.
  • Major Prizes or Awards: Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in field.
  • Membership in Associations Requiring Outstanding Achievements: Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements of members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in that field.

If the above criteria do not readily apply to the O-1 candidate’s field, then s/he may submit comparable evidence.

Overall, O-1 Visa candidates should demonstrate some major impact in their field in addition to satisfying the above. This is because meeting 3 or more of the above regulatory criteria may not be enough for an O-1 approval.

2. Distinction in the Arts (O-1B)

The O-1 Arts category requires a showing of “distinction,” or “a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.” Individuals should show they are prominent, renowned, leading or well-known in the field.

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; these may include an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, Director’s Guild Award, Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, etc., or equivalent; or (b) at least 3 of the following:

  • Leading or Starring Role in Events with a Distinguished Reputation: Has performed and will perform services as lead or starring participant in productions or events with a distinguished reputation. Evidence may include critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements.
  • Leading or Starring role for Establishments with Distinguished Reputation: Has performed and will perform in lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments with a distinguished reputation. Evidence may consist of articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications or testimonials.
  • Significant Recognition from Organizations, Critics, Governments or Experts: Testimonials must be in a format clearly indicating author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of applicant’s achievements.
  • National or International Recognition for Achievements: Evidence may include critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines or other publications.
  • Major Commercial or Critically Acclaimed Success: Evidence may include title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications.
  • High Remuneration: Has commanded/will command high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field.

3. Extraordinary Achievement in Film or Television (O-1C)

O-1C candidates must demonstrate a “record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.”

Candidates must provide: (a) evidence of nomination or receipt of significant national or international awards or prizes in the field, such as the Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award; or (b) at least 3 of the following:

  • Leading or Starring role for Establishments with Distinguished Reputation: Has performed and will perform in leading, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments with a distinguished reputation. Evidence may include articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications or testimonials.
  • Leading or Starring Role in Productions with Distinguished Reputation: Has performed and will perform services as leading or starring participant in productions or events with a distinguished reputation. Evidence may include critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications contracts or endorsements.
  • Significant Recognition from Organizations, Critics, Governments or Other Recognized Experts: Such testimonials must clearly indicate author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of candidate’s achievements.
  • National or International Recognition for achievements: Evidence may include critical reviews or other published materials by or about candidate in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.
  • Major Commercial or Critically Acclaimed Success: Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success. Indicators may include: title, rating, 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.
  • High Remuneration: Has commanded/will command high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field. Evidence may include contracts or other reliable evidence.

Television and film O-1’s cannot use “comparable evidence” outside of the above to show eligibility. The other two O-1 categories have a “comparable evidence” provision. This may make a petition in the Film and Television O-1 Visa sub-category more challenging.

Required O-1 Visa Peer Group Consultation

The O-1 requires a written Consultation from a US Peer Group, unless no appropriate peer group exists for candidate’s field. A Peer Group Consultation might also include individual(s) with expertise in candidate’s field of endeavor. If a labor or management organization exists, USCIS requires a consultation stating, at minimum, they have “no objection” to the O-1  working in the US.

O-1 Visa Processing Times

O-1 Visa timing varies substantially (2 to 4 months) depending on where the candidate files the petition. However, processing times can change dramatically in accordance with USCIS priorities. Expedited processing is available for a “premium processing” fee. This expedite fee guarantees processing within 15 calendar days of filing. But premium processing does NOT guarantee a final decision within 15 days. Even in expedited petitions, USCIS may request additional evidence. A request for further evidence (RFE) restarts the clock for another 15 days upon receipt of additional evidence.

O-2 Visa for Individuals Accompanying Arts, TV and Film O-1 Visa Holders

The O-2 Visa is for individuals accompanying an O-1 holder in the Arts, Motion Picture and Television productions or Athletics. No comparable category exists for individuals in the fields of Business, Science and Education. USCIS may approve an O-2 Visa petition in conjunction with the services of an O-1 Visa holder. The O-2 Visa holder cannot work apart from the O-1 principal.

O-2 Visa candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Seek to enter the US solely to assist in an O-1 Visa holder’s performance.
  • Be an integral part of the actual performance.
  • Have critical skills and experience with O-1 principal that are not general in nature, and that US workers cannot perform. (The O-2 requires no labor certification. Nor it does not require a showing that US workers cannot perform the job).
  • Must have foreign residence that s/he does not intend to abandon.

In addition, O-2 Visa holders who accompany an O-1 television or film artist must:

  • Possess skills and experience with O-1 principal that are not of a general nature. These skills and/or experiences must be critical, based upon a preexisting, long-standing working relationship. Or,
  • Have skills and experience with O-1 principal relating to a particular production because significant production (including both pre- and post-production) will occur both inside and outside the US. Therefore the O-2’s continued participation is essential to successful completion of a particular project.

O-3 Visa for Dependents

Spouses and minor children may apply for an O-3 dependent visa to accompany an O-1 visa holder. An O-3 may live and study in the US during the visa validity period. But O-3 status does not provide work authorization.