Qualification Criteria for an O-1 Visa

O-1 visas are available to people who have not only a job offer in the U.S., but proven extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. What does it mean to be considered a person of extraordinary ability? See below for the details. In general, the person must have received national or international acclaim in a particular field, or, if working in motion pictures or television productions, have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.

O-1 visas can be given only on the basis of a person’s individual qualifications. Being a member of a group or team will not, by itself, qualify someone for an O-1 visa.

In addition, the person must be coming to the U.S. work or perform at an event or a series of events in the area of extraordinary ability. The term “event” is interpreted liberally outside the fields of athletics and arts and can include, for example, an ongoing research project for a private company.

Key Features of the O-1 Visa

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of the O visa include:

  • The O visa holder can work legally in the U.S. for the O visa sponsor. If, however, the worker wants to change jobs, a new visa is necessary.
  • O visas can be issued fairly quickly.
  • O visas will be granted for the length of time necessary for a particular event, up to a maximum of three years, with unlimited extensions in one-year increments.
  • The O visa holder and family may travel in and out of the U.S. or stay continuously for as long as the visa stamp and status are valid.
  • A spouse and unmarried children under age 21 may accompany the O visa holder, but they may not accept employment in the United States.

Extraordinary Ability in Science, Education, Business, or Athletics

To meet the O-1 visa standards, the applicant must be able to show extraordinary ability and receipt of sustained national or international acclaim for it. This can be demonstrated if the person has gotten a major internationally recognized award, such as an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize, or has accomplished at least three of the following:

  • received a nationally recognized prize or award for excellence
  • attained membership in associations that require outstanding achievements of their members in a particular field of expertise, as judged by recognized national or international experts
  • been the subject of published material in professional or major trade publications or major media (regarding you and your work)
  • participated, on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in your field
  • made an original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contribution of major significance to the field
  • authored scholarly articles in professional journals or major media
  • been previously employed in a critical or essential capacity for an organization with a distinguished reputation, or
  • command or have commanded a high salary or other outstanding remuneration for your services.

If the above criteria do not readily apply to the applicant’s occupation, the company filing the immigration petition may submit comparable evidence to show how “extraordinary” the person really is. The company should take care to explain exactly why the above criteria do not apply to the applicant.

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