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O1 Visa Requirements

What is Required to Receive an O1 Visa? 

To receive an O1 visa, applicants must be able to prove that they have an extraordinary ability in the arts, education, business, or athletics. Additionally, an applicant can receive an O1 visa if they have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry as well as national or international recognition for those achievements. 

What Does it Mean to Have Extraordinary Ability or Achievement? 

The O1 visa is only issued to individuals who can demonstrate their extraordinary ability or achievement by providing evidence with their petition.

Extraordinary Ability in the Arts, Education, Business or Athletics

An applicant has extraordinary ability in the arts, education, business, or athletics if they exhibit a level of expertise that indicates the applicant is one of a small fraction of individuals who sit at the very top of their field. Extraordinary ability is demonstrated by showing the applicant has sustained national or international acclaim in education, business, or athletics.

Individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts must show they have a high level of achievement, or distinction, in the field of arts. A high level achievement or distinction in the field of arts can be evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above ordinary skill and recognition, such that the artist is prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known. 

Extraordinary Achievement in the Motion Picture and Television Industry 

An applicant has extraordinary achievement in cinema or television if they have a degree of skill and recognition substantially above ordinary skill and recognition, such that the applicant is recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the industry. 

How to Prove Extraordinary Ability or Achievement? 

Applicants must be able to demonstrate their extraordinary ability or achievement by proving they have sustained national or international acclaim and that their achievements have been recognized in their field.

Recognition in an applicant’s field can be proven by submitting evidence that the applicant has received a major internationally recognized award. 

If an applicant has not received a major internationally recognized award, the applicant can prove recognition by providing evidence that the applicant has received at least 3 of the 10 forms of recognition listed below: 

  • Commercial success in the performing arts; 
  • A high salary or remuneration compared to others in their field; 
  • A current or past leading or critical role in distinguished organization; 
  • The applicant’s work has been displayed at artistic showcases or exhibitions; 
  • The applicant has received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence; 
  • Membership in associations in the field that demand outstanding achievement from their members; 
  • Materials have been published about the applicant in professional or major trade publications or other major media; 
  • The applicant has been asked to judge the work of others individually or as part of a panel; 
  • Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the applicant’s field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media.

What Should I Submit with the O1 Visa Application? 

The O1 visa applicant’s U.S. employer, U.S. agent, or foreign employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of the applicant. Form I-129 is submitted to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). Commonly, a U.S. agent who is inside the U.S. will file Form I-129 on behalf of the employer. 

When submitting Form I-129, the employer must include the required evidence showing the potential employee’s qualifications for the O1 visa. The employer or agent must not file the form I-129 more than one year prior to the date the employer needs the potential employee’s services. The USCIS recommends an employer or agent file the form I-129 at least 45 days prior to the date of employment. 

Documentation Filed with the Form I-129

The employer, or an agent on the employer’s behalf, must provide the following documentation to the USCIS: 

  • Evidence demonstrating the potential employee’s extraordinary ability;
  • A written advisory opinion from a peer group or a person with expertise in the beneficiary’s field.
    • This requirement may be waived for O1B applicants who can demonstrate that they are seeking readmission to perform similar services within two years of a prior application.
    • Additionally, this requirement may be waived if it can be demonstrated that no applicable peer group exists to provide evidence, in which case other evidence provided by the employer will be considered instead. 
  • The contract between the employer and potential employee or a summary of the oral agreement under which the employee would be employed. 
  • An explanation of the nature of the events or activities of employment, the start and end dates of the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities. 

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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.

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