O-1 Visas For Extraordinary Achievement or Abilities
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Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (8 CFR 214.2(o))

Portions of the content on this page are available as public information on the USCIS website.

Criteria for Eligibility

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa category allows U.S. businesses or organizations to sponsor foreign nationals who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.

The different O-1 categories include the following:

O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)

O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry

O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance.

The O-1A applicant must demonstrate that they have received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the beneficiary related to the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
  • A high salary or other remuneration for services or that the beneficiary will command a high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation

The O-1B applicant must demonstrate that they have received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • Demonstrated a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
  • Commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

Application Process

The petitioning employer must file a petition for a nonimmigrant work visa with USCIS. The petition must include a detailed explanation of how the position and the foreign national meet the O-1 requirements.

If the O-1 petition is approved, USCIS will issue an I-797 Approval Notice. If the foreign national is inside the United States in another nonimmigrant status, they can file their O-1 petition as a change of status petition. This means that upon approval of the O-1 petition, the foreign national will automatically be in O-1 status.

Applying for a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

If the foreign national is outside of the United States, they will need to apply for an O-1 visa in their passport before they can enter the United States to work in O-1 status. To apply for the O-1 visa, the foreign national will need to complete the U.S. Department of State’s online visa application—DS-160, pay the visa fee, and schedule the visa appointment with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. If the visa appointment is successful, the foreign national will receive the O-1 visa in their passport. They will be able to enter the United States using the O-1 visa in their passport and the I-797 Notice of Approval from USCIS.

Validity Period

Initial: 3 years

Extension: The O-1 visa can be extended in 1-year increments with the same sponsoring employer or organization. A foreign national can obtain a new 3-year O-1 visa with a new employer or new sponsoring organization.

Total: The O-1 visa can be extended indefinitely.

Change of Employer

O-1 visa holders are able to change employers by having a new employer sponsor a new O-1 petition on their behalf.

Family of Visa Holder

Dependents of O-1 or O-2 visa holders (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) may apply for the O-3 visa. The O-3 visa status allows dependents of the O-1 visa to live in the United States and attend school, but not to work.

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