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O-1, Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

Individuals of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

Foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, can apply for an O-1 visa. It is also available to those in motion pictures and television who can demonstrate a record of extraordinary achievement. Most fields of creative endeavor are included in this category, such as chefs, carpenters and lecturers. The individual must be coming to work in his or her field of ability.

To qualify, the applicant must meet very high standards. If applying as an O-1 of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics, the individual must submit documentation showing his or her sustained national or international acclaim. If applying as an O-1 of extraordinary ability in the motion picture or television industry, the individual must submit documentation showing that he or she is recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.

In order to obtain an O-1 visa, a petition must first be filed by an agent or prospective U.S. employer on behalf of the foreign national. The foreign national cannot self-petition. Once the O-1 petition by an agent or prospective U.S. employer has been approved, the foreign national can apply for an O 1 visa. The initial grant of O-1 classification cannot exceed three years. Thereafter, one-year extensions are possible, and there is no limit to the number of extensions which can be granted.

Foreign Nationals Assisting O-1 Visa Holders
The O-2 visa is for a person who is accompanying and assisting an O-1 visa holder in a specific athletic or artistic event or in the motion picture or television industry. However, O-2 visas are not available to those who accompany or assist O-1 visa holders in education, science, or business.

Dependents of O-1/O-2 Visa Holders: O-3
This visa allows for the dependents of an O-1 or O-2 visa holder to reside in the United States for the duration of the visa which was granted to their O-1 or O-2 principal. O-3 visa holders are not entitled to work in the U.S.


How to Apply for an O-1 Visa:

(a) Applicants in sciences, education, business or athletics wishing to obtain an O-1 visa must demonstrate they are one of the small percentage who have risen to the top of their field of endeavor. The applicant must either demonstrate distinction by the receipt of a major internationally recognized award (i.e., the Nobel Prize) or by providing documentary evidence in at least three of the following:

  1. receipt of national or international prizes or awards for excellence;
  2. membership in associations, which require outstanding achievements of their members, in the field for which classification is sought;
  3. published material about the applicant;
  4. participation as a judge of the work of others in the same or allied field
  5. original contributions of significance in the field;
  6. authorship of scholarly articles;
  7. employment in a critical or essential capacity in an organization with a distinguished reputation;
  8. applicant has commanded or will command a high salary.

In addition, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will require a consultation with an appropriate U.S. peer group to obtain its opinion as to the applicant's achievements in the field, a description of the job duties to be performed and whether the position requires a person of extraordinary achievement. A peer group is an organization comprised of practitioners of the applicant's occupation. In most cases, the peer group will be a labor union. If a union has a collective bargaining agreement in the field, that is the appropriate union with which to consult. Otherwise, a union with expertise in the field is the appropriate union. If there is no such labor union, the consultation requirement is waived.

(b) An applicant wishing to obtain an O-1 visa in the arts must prove that he or she is recognized as being prominent in his or her field of endeavor. The applicant must either demonstrate distinction by being a nominee or a recipient of a significant national or international award or prize or by providing documentary evidence in at least three of the following:

  1. performed or will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation;
  2. achieved or will achieve national or international recognition for achievements;
  3. performed or will perform in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments which have a distinguished reputation;
  4. record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
  5. applicant has commanded or will command a high salary.

In addition, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will require a consultation with an appropriate U.S. peer group to obtain its opinion as to the applicant's achievements in the field, a description of the job duties to be performed and whether the position requires a person of extraordinary achievement. A peer group is an organization comprised of practitioners of the applicant's occupation. In some cases, the peer group will be a labor union. If a union has a collective bargaining agreement in the field, that is the appropriate union with which to consult. Otherwise, a union with expertise in the field is the appropriate union. If there is no such labor union, the consultation requirement is waived. However, it is still recommended that a consultation letter from a professional association be submitted with the O-1 petition.

(c) Applicants wishing to obtain an O-1 visa in the television or motion picture industries must demonstrate that they have attained a very high level of accomplishment in their industry evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered. The applicant must either demonstrate distinction by being a nominee or a recipient of a significant national or international award or prize or by providing documentary evidence in at least three of the following:

  1. performed or will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation;
  2. achieved national or international recognition for achievements;
  3. performed or will perform in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments which have a distinguished reputation;
  4. record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
  5. received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the applicant is engaged; and
  6. applicant has commanded or will command a high salary.

In addition, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will require a consultation with an appropriate U.S. peer group, which is an organization comprised of practitioners of the applicant's occupation, to obtain its opinion as to your achievements in the field, and whether the position offered requires a person of extraordinary achievement. In the television and motion picture industries, there must be a consultation with both the appropriate labor union and management organization.

How We Can Help You

At Ferman Law, we review with our clients the feasibility of the petition and subsequent visa application as well as the documentation required. We undergo the requisite consultation with the appropriate peer group or labor union. We prepare the governmental forms and advise on the possible use of premium processing. Upon approval of the petition, we schedule the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy and prepare our client for that interview. We can also prepare any visa applications for our client's dependents.

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