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.

Basic Requirements:

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 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“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.

Period of Stay:
  • Initial period of stay can be up to three years with extensions in one-year increments based on continuing need.
Dependent Family Members:
  • Dependents including legal spouses and children under 21 years of age are eligible for O-3 status. Work authorization is not permitted.
  • Requires submission and approval of an O-1 Visa Petition with supporting evidence to USCIS.  Following approval, the employee must apply for and obtain an O-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad before being admitted to the U.S.
  • Canadian citizens are considered visa-exempt and may be admitted with an O-1 approval notice and valid passport.
Processing Times:
  • USCIS processing times are subject to change but average 2 months unless premium processing service is used, in which case USCIS will review the petition within 15 calendar days.
  • Visa appointment availability is subject to change but appointments are generally available within 1-2 weeks, with visas being issued within 7-10 days following, assuming no government administrative processing delays.
Maintaining O-1 Visa Status:
  • The visa is employer-specific, meaning that an employee cannot change employers without government authorization.
  • The visa is job-specific, meaning that an employee cannot change positions without government authorization if a material change in job duties will occur.