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The O1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States that is designed for individuals with extraordinary ability in specific fields, including the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. It’s often called the “O1 visa for extraordinary ability” or simply the “O1 visa.”
It’s important to note that the O1 visa application process can be complex and requires careful preparation of supporting documentation. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney is highly recommended to ensure you meet the requirements and increase your chances of a successful O1 visa application.
Overall, the O1 visa provides a pathway for individuals with extraordinary ability to work in the United States. It offers opportunities to showcase exceptional talent, collaborate with renowned organizations, and further develop one’s career on an international level.
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Dual Intent Visa
One advantage of the O1 visa is its “dual intent” nature, meaning that you can pursue a permanent residency (a Green Card) while on an O1 visa without jeopardizing your non-immigrant status.
This means you can express your intent to live and work permanently in the U.S., which can be beneficial for individuals looking to establish long-term residency.
The Application Process for an O1 Visa
The process of obtaining an O1 visa involves filing a petition with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). The petition must include evidence demonstrating your extraordinary ability, such as awards, publications, contracts, media coverage, or testimonials.
Additionally, you must include a written advisory opinion from a recognized expert in your field, affirming your extraordinary ability. A detailed itinerary of the events or activities you will be engaged in while in the U.S. is also required.
O-1 Visa Requirements
The O-1 visa has two categories:
- O-1A for the sciences, education, business, or athletics
- O-1B for artists
While the “extraordinary ability” standard applies to both categories, the definition of “extraordinary ability” is slightly different for each group.
Unfortunately, no one can self-petition for an O-1.
Instead, the O-1 visa requires a contract with a U.S. employer or agent. The employer or agent must have a legitimate relationship with you and be willing to sponsor your visa application.
If you are self-employed or work as a freelancer, you can also act as your own agent and file the petition. The employer or agent must provide a job offer or contract detailing the terms of your employment or services in the United States.
In addition to a contract, O-1 visa petitions must also include an advisory opinion from a trade or consulting organization or a reputable peer group detailing that the visa applicant has an ongoing reputation of extraordinary ability.
If there isn’t an applicable peer group, several strong and focused letters from experts in the field may suffice for an advisory opinion. The aim is to establish that the individual has already achieved the top level in their field. However, it should be noted that the procedure for obtaining advisory opinions varies between organizations.
To qualify for an O1 temporary visa, the individual must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, or athletics.
Criteria for O-1A Extraordinary Ability
When applying for an O-1A visa (sciences, athletics, business), extraordinary ability is determined the same way as it is for EB-1A visa purposes. The person applying must either demonstrate a one-time achievement at the caliber of an Olympic Medal or Nobel prize or meet a minimum of three of the following criteria:
- Having received a lesser national or international acclaim or award for excellence in the field of endeavor
- Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements of their members, as determined by experts in the field
- Published materials in major or professional trade publications about the individual or appearance/printed materials about the individual in other major media sources
- Participation, either individually or on as a panel member, as a judge of the work of others in the field, including serving as a reviewer/referee for articles to be published or on discussion and advisory panels
- Contributions of major significance in the original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related field
- Having authored scholarly articles in the field, as published in major trade publications, professional journals, or other major media resources
- Serving in a critical or essential capacity for distinguished organizations or establishments
- Garnering a high salary or other significantly high compensation for services compared to others in the same field
Criteria for O-1B Extraordinary Ability
Extraordinary ability for O-1B applicants is defined as “distinction” in the arts. As with O-1A, such a distinction can be established with a one-time major achievement such as an Academy Award, Director’s Guild Award, Emmy, or evidence of a minimum of three of the following:
- Performed and will perform services as a starring participant or lead in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation demonstrated by advertisements, reviews, publicity releases, contracts, publications, or endorsements
- Performed and will perform in a lead or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation demonstrated via articles in publications, trade journals, newspapers, publications, or testimonials.
- Received national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about you in major newspapers, magazines, professional journals, or other publications
- A history of substantial commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as evidenced by the title, rating, motion picture or television industry ratings, standing in the field, box office receipts, and other occupational achievements reported in major newspapers, trade journals, or other publications
- Achieved significant recognition for achievements from critics, government agencies, organizations, or other recognized experts in the field of practice, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s expertise, authority, and knowledge of the applicant’s accomplishments
- A high salary or other substantial reward for services compared to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other credible evidence.
Suppose the above criteria doesn’t readily apply to the alien’s occupation in the arts. In that case, they may submit comparable evidence to establish eligibility.
However, this does not apply to the motion picture or television industry.
O1 Visa Duration and Extensions
The initial period of stay on an O1 visa is typically up to three years, with the possibility of one-year increments extensions. There is no set limit on the number of extensions you can obtain as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria and maintain your extraordinary ability.
O1 Visa Holder Dependents
Dependents, including spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age, can accompany O1 visa holders to the United States under the O3 visa category. It should be noted that dependents can’t work in the U.S. but can attend school or college.
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