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Foreign nationals with “extraordinary” abilities in the performing arts, fine arts, motion pictures, television production, athletics, sciences, education or business are eligible for an O-1 Nonimmigrant Visa. The O-1 visa category is further divided into two categories: the O-1A visa and the O-1B visa. The O-1A visa is designed for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the athletics, business, education, or sciences, whereas the O-1B visa is designed for individuals that possess extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts or television and film industry. Like other Nonimmigrant Visa categories, O-1 beneficiaries also need a U.S. petitioner to sponsor the O-1 application on the foreign beneficiary’s behalf.
The stringent criteria for O-1 visas require applicants to demonstrate “extraordinary” ability by sustained national or international acclaim, and more specifically, proof of fulfillment of certain listed criteria, including receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards, published material in professional publications and significant contributions to his/her specialized field, to name a few.
In order to be considered for an O-1A visa, the foreign national of extraordinary ability must be able to provide evidence that they have received an internationally acclaimed award, such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic Gold Medal, or prove at least three of the following criteria:
If the above criteria do not readily apply to the field of expertise, other comparable evidence may be submitted as evidence of extraordinary ability.
To qualify for an O-1B visa, the petitioner must provide evidence that the foreign national of extraordinary ability has been nominated for or has received a significant national or international award, such as an Academy Award Grammy, or prove at least three of the following criteria:
If the beneficiary’s field of expertise is in the field of the arts, and the above criteria does not generally apply, the petitioner may provide other appropriate evidence to verify that the beneficiary demonstrates extraordinary ability and expertise in his/her field.
The support staff of extraordinary O-1 foreign nationals are eligible to apply for an O-2 visa so that they may accompany the O-1 artist or athlete in order to assist them with their O-1 activities. In the case of an O-1A visa, the presence of the O-2 individual must be essential for the O-1 visa holder’s activities in the United States. In the case of O-1B visas, the O-2 must have critical skills and extensive experience in the O-1 visa holder’s field of expertise, which makes the position unavailable to U.S. workers. The O-1B visa holder must further show that the presence of the O-2 worker is necessary for the success of the O-1 activities to be conducted in the U.S.
O-1 and/or O-2 visa holder’s spouse and children (under the age of 21) may apply for an O-3 visa to enter the U.S. with the primary O-1 and/or O-2 visa holder. As long as the O-1 or O-2 visa remains valid, the O-3 family member may reside in the U.S.
The foreign national of extraordinary ability must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of his/her extraordinary ability. O-1 visas are typically granted for an initial period of 3 years, but can be extended in one-year increments as long as the “extraordinary” ability and work is sustained.
Those on O-1 visas may also be eligible to apply for the First Preference Employment-Based Green Cards.