Visa and passport

What is an O-1 visa?

O-1 visas are reserved for foreign nationals who are highly talented or have reached a notable level of acclaim in the fields of science, art, education, business or athletics.

The foreign national must be extraordinary in their field in terms of knowledge, ability, expertise and accomplishments and the position being offered must require the services of an “extraordinary” person.

In order to qualify under the O-1 nonimmigrant visa category, a foreign national must be able to demonstrate that they have sustained national or international acclaim and that their achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.

The foreign national must seek to enter the United States to continue work in their area of extraordinary ability.

Qualifying for O-1 visa

The following list of criteria may be used to assemble evidence to establish a foreign national’s extraordinary ability or achievement:

  • Receipt of a major, internationally recognized award (such as the Nobel Prize)


At least three of the following:

  • Documentation of the foreign national’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor.
  • Documentation of the foreign national’s membership in associations in the field that classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the foreign national, relating to the foreign national’s work in the field that classification is sought, which shall include the title, date and author of such published material, and any necessary translation.
  • Evidence of the foreign national’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought.
    Evidence of the foreign national’s original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.
  • Evidence of the foreign national’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media.
  • Evidence that the foreign national has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence that the foreign national has commanded and now commands a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

USCIS regulations also note that if these standards do not readily apply to the field, the petitioner may submit other comparable evidence.

A different set of standards applies to the arts and the motion picture and television industries.

Find out more about qualifying for an O-1 visa.

Length of stay and extensions

Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability may be admitted initially on an O-1 visa for a maximum period of three years. Extensions of stay in increments of one year may be granted.

Spouses and minor children are entitled to remain in the U.S. for the same period of time as the visa recipient but are not permitted to work.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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