o-1-visa

O-1 Visa: For Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

Live and work in the US for up to three years. O-1 dependents can apply for O-3 visas.

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Thinking of working overseas in the United States? Not sure if you will make it past the H-1B backlog? The O-1 visa can get you to work in the US, provided you make the mark.

What is an O-1 visa?

The O-1 classification in US nonimmigrant visas is for individuals that possess extraordinary ability in certain fields or have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement. Extraordinary ability can be in the fields of - athletics, arts, business, education, or sciences. 

A record (that can be demonstrated) of extraordinary achievement in the television or motion picture industry might also make an individual eligible for the O-1.

O-1 visa for the US

Extraordinary Ability

Extraordinary Achievement 

  • Athletics
  • Arts
  • Business
  • Education
  • Sciences 
  • Motion picture
  • Television 

What are the benefits of O-1 visa for the US?

The benefits of the O-1 visa include - 

  • Quick processing
  • No numerical limit or annual cap 
  • Can work legally in the US for sponsor 
  • Can be granted stay in the US for up to a maximum of three years
  • Unlimited extensions available as one-year increments
  • Route to permanent residency or US Green Card 

Dependents can come to the US with the O-1 visa holder, but cannot accept employment in the US. If the O-1 visa holder switches to another job in the US, they would require a new visa.

How many O category visas for the US?

The O nonimmigrant classification covers the following four separate visa categories - 

  • O-1A: For individuals that possess extraordinary ability in athletics, business, education, and sciences. This category does not include the arts, television or motion arts industry. 
  • O-1B: For individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.
  • O-2: For individuals that will be accompanying an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific performance or event.
  • O-3: For individuals that are the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.

What is meant by extraordinary ability or achievement for O-1 visa?

An extraordinary ability - in arts, athletics, business, education, or sciences - will be needed. Achievement of the extraordinary level will be needed in the case of a foreign national in the motion picture or television industry. Due evidence will have to be provided to establish that the ability or achievement is indeed extraordinary.

O-1 visa: What is extraordinary?

Extraordinary ability in the field of athletics, business, education, science

A level of expertise indicating that the individual is among the small percentage that have arisen to the very top in their field

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts

Means distinction. By distinction is implied a high level of achievement in the field of arts that can be proven by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above than ordinarily encountered. The individual must be “renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts”, as per the Code of Federal Regulations.  

Extraordinary achievement 

Applicable to motion picture and television productions. Means a high level of accomplishment in the industry evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered. The individual must be “recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the motion picture or television field”, as per the Code of Federal Regulations. 

What are the arts included under O-1 US visa classification?

For the purposes of an O-1 visa, ‘arts’ implies any field of creative endeavor. This includes, but is not limited to, fine arts, culinary arts, performing arts, and visual arts.

In addition to the principal creators and performers, there are other essential persons that also come under the category of arts for O-1 eligibility. For example, directors, musical supervisors, stage technicians etc.

Who will petition for my US O-1 visa?

A petitioner seeking to get an O-1 or O-2 status for a foreign national will have to file a petition on their behalf on the form prescribed by USCIS. An O-1 or O-2 petition can only be filed by a - 

  1. US employer, 
  2. A US agent, or 
  3. A foreign employer, through a US agent. 

The petition might be filed up to a year before the date of the actual requirement for the services of the individual in the US.

What documents do I need for O-1 visa?

Depends on whether you are from arts, other eligible fields or from the motion picture or television industry.

1. For persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of athletics, business, education, or science:

Must be able to demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements by providing -

  • Receipt of a prominent internationally-recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, OR 
  • Documents such as - published material, evidence of having commanded or to command a high salary, evidence of being employed in a critical or essential capacity, evidence of participation on a panel etc.

Comparable evidence of occupation might be submitted to establish eligibility. 

2. For persons of extraordinary ability in the arts:

Must be recognized as being prominent in their field of endeavor by providing -

  • Evidence of being nominated for, or being the recipient of, significant international or national awards such as Grammy, Academy Award, Emmy, or a Director’s Guild Award, OR
  • Documents such as - evidence of significant recognition for achievements from critics, government agencies, organizations, or other recognized experts; evidence of having commanded or to command a high salary; evidence of having achieved national or international recognition.

Comparable evidence of occupation might be submitted to establish eligibility.

3. For persons of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry:

The individual must be recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement by providing -

  • Evidence of being nominated for, or receiving significant national or international awards or prizes such as a Grammy, an Emmy, an Academy Award, or a Director’s Guild Award. 
  • Documents such as - evidence of having a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, evidence of having achieved recognition (national or international) for achievements, evidence of having commanded or to command a high salary etc.

What is the O-1 visa application process?

The process will begin with your US employer filing a petition - Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker - with USCIS on your behalf. Then, you will have to fill up Form DS160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. As this is a petition-based US visa, you will have to pay USD190 - approximately INR14,820 - as the visa application fee

Two separate interviews will have to be scheduled - for giving your biometrics at the Visa Application Centre (VAC), followed by a visa interview at a US Embassy / Consulate. Take all your required documentation along with you for the interviews.

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