O-1 Visa

O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa

O-1 visas are reserved for foreign nationals who are highly talented or have reached a high level of acclaim in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. The foreign national must be extraordinary in his/her 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 s/he has sustained national or international acclaim and that his/her achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation. The foreign national must seek to enter the United States to continue work in his/her area of extraordinary ability.

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

  • Receipt of a major, internationally-recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, or

At least three (3) of the following forms of documentation:

  • 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 for which 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 for which 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; and
  • 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.

The 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.

Although the O category is subject to the presumption of immigrant intent, requiring the foreign national to prove entitlement to nonimmigrant status to consular officers and immigration inspectors alike, the O-1 classification, however, does not require holders to possess a residence abroad which they have no intention of abandoning nor does it require holders to prove they are seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily.

The U.S. employer files the initial O-1 petition with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center in the U.S. Current processing times vary from four (4) to eight (8) weeks. The USCIS’s “Premium Processing Service” allows businesses to request expedited adjudication on certain pending and newly filed petitions, including the O-1 classification, by filing a completed Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) and paying a fee of $1,225. This fee is in addition to the normal filing fee of $325 and must be paid by separate check or money order. The USCIS guarantees that within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt, the employer will receive either an approval notice, a notice of intent to deny, a request for evidence or a notice of investigation for fraud or misrepresentation. If USCIS fails to meet its 15-calendar-day guarantee, it will refund the $1,225 but will continue to process the petition expeditiously. Once approval is granted by the USCIS, the employee, his/her spouse and minor children (under the age of 21) may apply for O-1 and O-3 visas, respectively, at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Spouses and children admitted to the U.S. under O-3 visas are not authorized to work in the U.S. Canadian citizens are visa-exempt and are not required to apply for visas at a U.S. Consulate.

Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability may be admitted initially for a maximum period of three (3) years. Extensions of stay in increments of one (1) year may be granted. Spouses and minor children are entitled to remain in the U.S. for the same period as the principal but are not permitted to work.