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O Visa

O Visa – Extraordinary Abilities (more info)

The O visa category covers individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. O-1A visas are for individuals who have extraordinary ability in Science, Education, Business or Athletics. O-1B visas are for individuals who have extraordinary ability in the Motion Picture and Television industry. Visas are available to the O-1 visa holder’s support staff (O-2), as well as for the O-1 visa holder’s spouse and children (O-3). There is currently no annual cap on O visas. The O visa is a “dual intent” visa, meaning that a visa will not be denied simply because an individual has intentions to become a permanent resident.

O-1A Extraordinary Ability (Science, Education, Business, or Athletics)

The O-1A category applies to individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. The individual must be coming to the U.S. to work in his or her area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

An individual cannot apply for an O visa in his or her own name. A U.S. Employer or U.S. agent, manager, concert venue, or other sponsor must file the Petition.

Petition Document Requirements

A U.S. Petitioner files the petition using the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with O Supplement, along with the following:

  • A written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the group with expertise in the alien’s area of ability which describes the person’s ability/achievements in the field and the duties to be performed;
  • A copy of any written contract between the employer and the alien or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed;
  • If the events will take place in multiple areas, an itinerary or schedule must be submitted which sets forth the dates and locations of the events;
  • Evidence that the alien has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least three of the following:
    1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
    2. Membership in organization which requires outstanding achievement;
    3. Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the person and his/her work in the field for which classification is sought;
    4. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
    5. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought;
    6. A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
    7. 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; or,
    8. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

If the above standards do not readily apply to the person’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the alien’s eligibility.

When to file:

Petitions should be filed as soon as possible, but no more than 6 months before the proposed employment will begin or the extension of stay is required. If the petition is not submitted at least 45 days before the employment will begin, petition processing and subsequent visa issuance may not be completed before the person’s services are required or previous employment authorization ends.

O-1B Extraordinary Ability (Arts, Motion Picture, or Television)

The O-1B category applies to individuals who have demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. The individual must be coming to the U.S. to work in his or her area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

An individual cannot apply for an O visa in his or her own name. A U.S. Employer or U.S. agent, manager, concert venue, or other sponsor must file the Petition.

Petition Document Requirements

A U.S. Petitioner files the petition using the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with O Supplement, along with the following:

  • A written advisory opinion, describing the alien’s ability as follows:
    1. If the petition is based on the alien’s extraordinary ability in the arts, the consultation must be from a peer group (including labor organizations) in the alien’s field of endeavor; or a person or persons designated by the group with expertise in the alien’s area of ability.
    2. If the petition is based on the alien’s extraordinary achievements in the motion picture or television industry, separate consultations are required from a labor and a management organization with expertise in the alien’s field of endeavor.
  • A copy of any written contract between the employer and the alien or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed;
  • If the events will take place in multiple areas, an itinerary or schedule must be submitted which sets forth the dates and locations of the events;
  • Evidence the alien has 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 three of the following:
    1. Performed or 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;
    2. Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
    3. 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;
    4. Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the alien’s achievements;
    5. A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence; or
    6. If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the alien’s eligibility.

When to file:

Petitions should be filed as soon as possible, but no more than 6 months before the proposed employment will begin or the extension of stay is required. If the petition is not submitted at least 45 days before the employment will begin, petition processing and subsequent visa issuance may not be completed before the person’s services are required or previous employment authorization ends.

O-2 Support Personnel

The O-2 category is for person accompanying and assisting an O-1 artist or athlete in the artistic or athletic performance or event. This person must demonstrate that he/she is an integral part of the actual performance. In addition, the person must demonstrate that he/she has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that are not of a general nature and which cannot be performed by a U.S. worker.

For motion picture or TV productions, the person must have skills and experience which are not general, which are critical and which are based on a pre-existing long-standing working relationship. In the case of a specific production, a long-standing relationship is not necessary where there is significant pre or post production work that will take place inside and outside the U.S. and the person’s presence is needed for successful completion.

Petition Document Requirements

The petition must be filed by the U.S. Petitioner concurrently with the filing of the O-1 visa petition and must be filed with:

  • A written advisory opinion/consultation from each union with appropriate expertise over the activities the O-2 will perform:
    • If the O-2 petition is for an alien accompanying an O-1 alien of extraordinary ability in the arts, the opinion must be from a labor organization with expertise in the skill area involved.
    • If the O-2 petition is for an alien accompanying an O-1 alien of extraordinary achievement in the field of motion picture or television, the opinion must be from a labor organization and a management organization with expertise in the skill area involved.
  • Evidence of the current essentiality, critical skills, and experience of the O-2 alien with the O-1 alien, and that the alien has substantial experience utilizing the critical skills and essential support services for the O-1. In the case of a specific motion picture or television production, the evidence shall establish that significant production has taken place outside the U.S., and will take place inside the U.S. and that the continuing participation of the alien is essential to the successful completion of the production.

When to file:

Petitions should be filed as soon as possible, but no more than 6 months before the proposed employment will begin or the extension of stay is required. If the petition is not submitted at least 45 days before the employment will begin, petition processing and subsequent visa issuance may not be completed before the person’s services are required or previous employment authorization ends.

Spouses and Dependants

Spouses and minor children may be granted O-3 status to accompany an O-1 or O-2 visa holder. They may not work in the U.S. under this classification.

Applying for the Visa:

If the beneficiary of the O visa petition is outside of the country when the petition is approved, he/she must apply for a visa at a U.S. Consulate.

Some beneficiaries may be visa exempt. In those cases, the I-129 approval notice is sent to the port of entry (POE) where the beneficiary intends to apply for admission. For specific procedures on Visa Application Procedures, Required Documentation and Visa Ineligibility Waiver, please visit Visa Services at the Department of State.

If the beneficiary is already in the U.S. and is changing from one nonimmigrant status to another, a visa is not required. However, a visa may be required if the beneficiary subsequently leaves the U.S. and wishes to re-enter.

Entry into the U.S.

Please be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has authority to deny admission at the port of entry to any applicant who is inadmissible under INA, even if the applicant has a visa. Also, the CBP, not the consular officer, determines the period for which the bearer of a temporary work visa is authorized to remain in the United States. At the port of entry, CBP officials issue Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay, however, is made solely by the USCIS.