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O1 Visa Criteria: Eligibility And Requirements

The O1 visa allows U.S. employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrant foreign workers who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, arts, or athletics as well as extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. 

What are the criteria for the O1 visa? 

Applicants for the O1 visa, and their employer, must meet certain O1 Visa criteria in order to qualify for the O1 visa.  Below is a description of the O1 Visa criteria required to receive the O1 visa. 

Extraordinary Ability or Achievement 

For starters, the applicant must have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.  

In addition to extraordinary ability, the applicant may have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture and/or television productions to receive the O1 visa. All O1 applicants must be coming to the United States temporarily to continue work in their area of extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement.

Foreign Residency Requirement

The O1 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa.  Thus, applicants for the O1 visa must maintain a foreign residency that they have no intention to abandon at the time of their application.  

General Evidence For O1 Visa Criteria

O1 visa petitions must include evidence of the O1 visa applicant’s extraordinary ability or achievement, including:

  • Affidavits, contracts, awards, and similar documentation that reflect the nature of the applicant’s achievement and were executed by an officer of the institution, firm, establishment, or organization where the work was performed; and
  • Affidavits written by present or former employers or recognized experts certifying the applicant’s extraordinary ability; or 
  • Affidavits written by present or former employers or recognized experts certifying the applicant’s extraordinary achievement and specifically describe the applicant’s recognition and ability or achievement in factual terms and set forth the expertise of the affiant and the manner in which the affiant acquired such information.

Event(s) Requirement 

O1 visa applicants who seek entry to the U.S. through a petition submitted by their employer or agent must be coming to the United States in order to perform services relating to an event or event.  When petitioning for the O1 visa, the employer or agent must explain the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities.

Events(s) are defined as an activity, including a scientific project, conference, convention, lecture series, tour, exhibit, business project, academic year, or engagement. Such activity may include short vacations, promotional appearances, and stopovers which are incidental and/or related to the event. A group of related activities may also be considered to be an event. In the case of an O1 athlete, the event could be the visa holder’s contract.  8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(i)

Written Advisory Opinion from Appropriate Consulting Entity or Entities 

All O1 visa applicants must submit a written advisory opinion from an appropriate U.S. peer group, labor organization, management organization, or person(s) with expertise in their field.  The advisory opinion must be submitted with the O1 visa petition.  The written advisory opinion will address the nature of the work to be done and the applicant’s qualifications. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(5)

A peer group is a group or organization that is composed of practitioners from the O1 applicant’s occupation. If there is a collective bargaining representative of an employer’s employees in the occupational classification for which the applicant is being sought, such a representative may be considered the appropriate peer group for purposes of consultation.  8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(ii) “Peer group”

Generally, evidence of consultation must be in the form of a written advisory opinion from a peer group (which could include a person or persons with expertise in the field), labor and/or management organization with expertise in the specific field involved. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(5)

If the advisory opinion is favorable to the petitioner, it should describe the alien’s ability and achievements in the field of endeavor, describe the nature of the duties to be performed, and state whether the position requires the services of an applicant of extraordinary ability. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(5)(ii)(A)

If the advisory opinion is not favorable to the applicant, the advisory opinion must set forth a specific statement of facts which supports the conclusion reached in the opinion. Advisory opinions must be submitted in writing and must be signed by an authorized official of the group or organization. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(5)

Extraordinary Ability in Arts

O1 visa applicants can qualify by proving their extraordinary ability in the arts, which includes but is not limited to: 

  • Fine arts
  • Visual arts
  • Culinary arts
  • Performing arts

Extraordinary ability means distinction, or a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(ii) “Extraordinary ability in the field of arts”

Applicants can qualify as having extraordinary ability in the arts if they are the principal creators or performers, as well as other persons essential to the art, including directors, set designers, lighting designers, sound designers, choreographers, choreologists, conductors, orchestrators, coaches, arrangers, musical supervisors, costume designers, makeup artists, flight masters, stage technicians, and animal trainers. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(ii) “Arts”

Applicants with extraordinary ability in the field of arts must be recognized as being prominent in their field of endeavor as demonstrated by the following:

  • Evidence that the applicant has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award; or
  • At least three of the following forms of documentation:
    • Evidence that the applicant has performed, and 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;
    • Evidence that the applicant has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
    • Evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
    • Evidence that the applicant has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
    • Evidence that the applicant has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the applicant is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the applicant’s achievements; or
    • Evidence that the applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence; or
  • If the above criteria do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(iv)(A)(B)

Extraordinary Ability in the Fields of Science, Education, Business, or Athletics

Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentages who has arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(ii) “Extraordinary ability in the field of science, education, business, or athletics”

Applicants with extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in their field of expertise.  

They must do so by providing evidence of:

  • Receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize; or
  • At least three of the following forms of documentation:
    • Documentation of the applicant’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
    • Documentation of the applicant’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 applicant, relating to the applicant’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 applicant’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 applicant’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
    • Evidence of the applicant’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
    • Evidence that the applicant has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
    • Evidence that the applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.
  • If the above criteria do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(iii)(A)(B) 

Extraordinary Achievement in the Motion Picture or Television Industry

Applicants with extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry must be recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement as evidenced by the following:

  • Evidence that the applicant has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award; or
  • At least three of the following forms of documentation:
    • Evidence that the applicant has performed, and 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;
    • Evidence that the applicant has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
    • Evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
    • Evidence that the applicant has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, 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;
    • Evidence that the applicant has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the applicant is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the applicant’s achievements; or
    • Evidence that the applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(iv)(A)(B)

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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