O1 Visa Explained
Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, or sciences
The O visa is for people who have a job offer or for those who work in professions which traditionally use an agent to arrange employment, such as actors, models or musicians and singers. The O-1 Visa is a US employment based visa granted to individuals with “extraordinary ability” in the fields of Arts, Athletics, Business, Education, or Science. The category "O-1 Visa" refers to two distinct work visas which often confused, the O-1A and an O-1B. The criteria required to qualify for each is different. The O-1 A Visa is a U.S. employment based visa given to people with “extraordinary ability” in the fields of Athletics, Business, Education, or Science. An O-1 B is the category of visa given to work in the arts, including television and motion pictures, in dance, theater, and music. If you're in the arts, then you need an O-1 B visa. When granted an O-1 B, then you and your support staff are eligible to come with you to live and work in the US. Your dependents are also allowed to live in the U.S., although they may not work while here. The legal criteria to qualify for an O-1 B visa is that you be an "alien of extraordinary ability" in the arts. Proving this standard is the key to winning an O visa. This somewhat ambiguous term requires evidence of achievements, success, and recognition in order to satisfy. Below there is a list of evidence and requirements you need in order to prove that you meet this criteria. It is not a complete list and each case has variables. An experienced immigration attorney will be able to advise you on what is the best evidence for your case.
Below is a list of the requirements for an O-1 A and an O-1 B.
O-1A Visa in the Field of Athletics, Business, Education, or Science
You are eligible for an O-1A Visa is you have won a Major Award (like the Nobel Peace Prize or an Emmy), or you meet at least three of the eight following criteria:
- Applicant has won an award for excellence. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(1)
- Applicant is a member of an Association that requires outstanding achievement as a criteria. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(2)
- Applicant has had articles written about them in major media. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(3)
- Applicant has acted as a judge of others in the field. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(4)
- Applicant has made an original contribution of significance to the field. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(5)
- Applicant has written a scholarly article. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(6)
- Applicant has and will be a critical role in a distinguished organization. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(7)
- Applicant has received a high salary for their field. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iii)(B)(8)
O-1B Visa in the Field of Art
You are eligible for an O-1B Visa is you have won a Major Award (like the Nobel Peace Prize or an Emmy), or you meet at least three of the six following criteria:
- Applicant has and will be a lead role in a distinguished event. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iv)(B)(1)
- Applicant has had articles written about them in major media. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iv)(B)(2)
- Applicant has and will be a critical role in a distinguished organization. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iv)(B)(3)
- Applicant has a record of major critical or commercial success. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iv)(B)(4)
- Applicant has received recognition from experts in the field. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iv)(B)(5)
- Applicant has received a high salary for their field. 8 CFR 214.2(O)(3)(iv)(B)(5)
Your “Extraordinary ability” should be in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. You could also be an accomplished film maker as well.
Family Of Main Visa Applicant
O-3: These visas are for the wives, husbands, and kids of the Main Visa applicant. Although they are permitted to join the principal applicant in the U.S. they are not allowed to accept employment.
How To Win Your O-1 Visa
To win your O-1 visa, the applicant should prove that he meets the “Extraordinary Ability” standard. As the applicant you should show that your notoriety has developed over time and is long lasting. You could show either that your national fame/ notoriety is from your home country alone or you can prove that you are internationally famous. Of course, your application is stronger if you are internationally known.
If you are NOT and artist but a highly skilled person in science, education, business or athletics you need to prove that you are a part of a small or elite group of people who have become the best in your field.
Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of 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.
To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.
How To Apply For An O-1 Visa
The petitioner should file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the USCIS office listed on the form instructions. The petition may not be filed more than one year before the actual need for the alien’s services. To avoid delays, the Form I-129 should be filed at least 45 days before the date of employment.
To Apply For An O-1 Visa, You Need To Submit The Following:
- Form I-29
- Petition for Nonimmigrant worker. (meaning you are not planning on moving here, yet)
- LOTS of evidence. This is listed below
USCIS is very particular about how this evidence is presented, we’ve seen other lawyers get rejected because they missed small details. One time we learned about a lawyer whose visa petition was rejected because they didn’t have their evidence hole punched properly.
- Consultation -This is a written opinion from a US organization in your field that states that you actually are of “extraordinary ability”
- Contract between petitioner and beneficiary – Pretty self-explanatory. This could also be a copy of an agreement or even a summary of an ‘oral agreement’ which could even be just an email. This doesn’t have to be signed either, of course its stronger if it is, but it should show precisely what your employer is offering and what you accepted to do your work as an extraordinary person. Itineraries – For an artist/ musician/ film maker – this would be your tour dates/ gallery openings/ and production calendar. For non-artists – this would be your work contract, research calendar, game schedule etc.
- Links to videos of interviews, shows, performances, editorials etc.
- Album or art sales
- Potential concert schedule
- Past concert schedule and tours
- Any awards you may have won
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