O-1 visas are based on a petition filed by a U.S. employer offering a specific job in the U.S. that requires a person of extraordinary ability. The petitioning employer must submit evidence that the prospective employee meets the established O-1 criteria, that the position offered requires an individual of extraordinary ability, and that the individual is coming to the U.S. to continue to work in the area of extraordinary ability. O-1 status may be granted for an initial stay of a maximum of three years, and may be renewed indefinitely in one year increments.
Scientists, Educators, Business Persons, and Athletes
Sustained national or international acclaim can be demonstrated by receipt of a major international award such as a Nobel Prize. Alternatively, an O-1 petition can be approved for an individual who can provide evidence of accomplishments in at least three of the following categories:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes/awards for excellence in the field.
- Membership in organizations in the field that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts.
- Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the prospective employee.
- Participation on a panel or as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization.
- Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance.
- Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media.
- Current or previous employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
- Past or proffered high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.
The foregoing categories of evidence may not be appropriate for all individuals, so the regulations also state that if they do not readily apply in a particular situation, the employer can submit “comparable evidence” of extraordinary ability. This comparable evidence may take the form of letters of support from distinguished authorities in the individual’s field.
Extraordinary Ability in the Arts
“Arts” includes any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to, fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts. Also included in the categories of essential technical or creative personnel are set designers, choreographers, music coaches, and related professionals.
Employers must show that the O-1 artist is recognized as being prominent in his or her field. In the special case of the motion picture or television industries, employers must show that the O-1 artist is recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the industry. In either case, this may be done by showing that the artist has been nominated for or has received a significant national or international award or prize, such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award. Alternatively, an O-1 petition can be approved for an individual in the arts by submitting evidence in at least three of the following categories:
- Has performed or will perform services as a lead/starring participant in productions or events with distinguished reputations as shown by critical reviews, ads, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements.
- National or international recognition for achievements through critical reviews, other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major papers, trade journals, magazines, etc.
- Has performed in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by media articles, testimonials, etc.
- Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success.
- Has achieved significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, and/or recognized experts.
- Has commanded or will command a high salary or other remuneration in relation to others in the field.
Again, if the foregoing categories of evidence do not readily apply to a particular individual, “comparable evidence” of extraordinary ability may be submitted.
Consultation with an appropriate peer group, labor and/or management organization regarding the nature of the proposed work and the beneficiary’s qualifications is mandatory before an O petition can be approved. “Peer group” means a group or organization comprised of practitioners of the beneficiary’s occupation. This requirement may be especially important in the arts, entertainment fields or athletics. Advisory consultations are labor consultations, unless no appropriate union exists. In the latter situation, employers may submit an advisory opinion from an individual expert in the field, a peer group, or management organization that describes the beneficiary’s ability and achievements, the nature of the duties to be performed, and whether the services require someone of extraordinary ability.
Derivative Family Members
The spouse and children (under age 21) of the O-1 visa holder will be eligible for derivative visas to accompany the employee on the U.S. assignment in the O-3 classification. The O-3 classification does not allow for U.S. employment.
O-2 Accompanying Employees
This category is restricted to foreign nationals seeking to accompany O-1 employees in the arts, motion picture and television productions, and athletics. O-2 foreign nationals cannot work separate and apart from the O-1 prospective employee in question and must be named in the O-1 petition. Individuals seeking admission in O-2 status to accompany an O-1 employee must meet the following criteria: (1) they must enter for the purpose of assisting in the O-1’s performance; (2) they must be an integral part of the actual performance; (3) they must have critical skills and experience with the O-1 employee which are not of a general nature and which are not possessed by a U.S. worker; and (4) they must have a foreign residence they do not intend to abandon. More specific requirements apply to O-2 foreign nationals involved in motion picture and television productions.