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