O-1 Visa

Extraordinary Ability

An O-1 visa permits foreigners at the very top of the arts, sciences, sports, education, business, motion picture, or television industries to enter the U.S. for work for an initial period of up to three years.

O-1 visa extensions can be granted if the person of extraordinary ability is required in the U.S. beyond three years. A significant reason to consider an O-1 visa is that essential assistants of the person with extraordinary ability may be eligible for an O-2 visa, which also permits them entry into the U.S. for work. For example, a doctor might be able to get an O-2 visa for an essential lab assistant.

O-1 visa expert lawyers at Passage Immigration Law provide professional help and guidance to meet the requirements of individuals in the process of getting O visas from the immigration authorities.

If you are seeking immigration status under the O-1 Extraordinary Ability classification, schedule a consultation to discuss your background and eligibility at (503) 427-8243, or you may schedule a consultation here.

O-1 visa qualifications

An O-1 is an exclusive non-immigrant visa reserved for people with extraordinary abilities in the science, arts, education, business, or athletics fields. People who are eligible for an O-1 visa are generally well-known in their fields, including professional athletes or famous artists.

A lot of work goes into preparing an O-1 visa. After all, applicants must prove that they’re extraordinary! So, how do you prove you qualify for an O-1 visa?

Receipt of Prizes or Awards

One way to prove your extraordinary abilities is to show off your trophies. When preparing your O-1 application, gather copies of awards confirmation letters, certificates, pictures of award plaques or trophies, public announcements, etc. Also, include some information about the award itself. For example, who presented the award? Who else did they consider? How many people compete for the award? How many of these awards are given out each year? Who else has won this award?

Membership in exclusive associations

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards
  • Membership in exclusive associations
  • Published material about you or your work
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business contributions in your field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in your field
  • A high salary or other remuneration compared with others in your field
  • Participation, either on a panel or individually, as a judge of others
  • Employment in a leading or critical role for organizations with distinguished reputations

If the given standards do not apply to the beneficiary’s work, the petitioner may present comparable evidence to establish eligibility.

O-1 visa process

To get an O-1 visa, an employer must file form I-129 along with a written advisory opinion from a labor union or industry peer group. If an O-1 visa is sought for an individual in television, a written advisory opinion must be obtained from an appropriate labor union and management organization. A copy of the agreement between the O-1 visa beneficiary and the employer must be filed. If the agreement is oral, a summation of the terms must be filed.

Finally, an itinerary is required to be filed adding an explanation of the type of events the visa beneficiary will engage in along with their starting and ending dates. Once your O-1 visa lawyers file all the data and documents, USCIS will evaluate the application and make a decision. Due to the processing time of an O-1 visa, it is vital that everything is filed at least 45 days before entry into the U.S. is sought.

A qualified O-1 visa lawyer can make sure all your evidence and documents are submitted according to the deadlines and regulations.

Validity period of an O-1 visa

Initially, an O-1 visa can be valid for up to three years, and if the O-1 project is ongoing, it may be extended in one-year increments. O-1 visa holders may be permitted to the U.S. for the validity period of the petition, plus up to ten days before the validity period starts and ten days after the period of validity ends.

An extension of status can be filed for beneficiaries in the United States whose projects are ongoing. In case there is a material change in the conditions of the employment contract, a new non-immigrant worker petition must be filed with the USCIS requesting an acceptance of the change.

Contact an O-1 visa lawyer

We are avid advocates of all those seeking to work and live here in the United States, particularly those with extraordinary abilities who will do nothing but stimulate our society, economy, culture, and country. If you think you are eligible for an O-1 visa, simply contact our expert immigration lawyer today to schedule your initial consultation.

We’ll communicate throughout the process with you, your agent and/ or employer, and any other relevant third parties like recommenders and/ or other experts and professionals.

Our O-1 lawyers’ experience benefits you in various key areas, and we:

  • Help you in gathering the proper documentation and evidence
  • Prepare and submit all USCIS forms and documentation
  • Monitor the entire application process
  • Clarify different options and scenarios surrounding your case
  • Classify the application and ensure requirements are met
  • Communicate with all related parties and USCIS throughout the entire process

With offices in Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington, our seasoned immigration attorneys serve clients nationwide and can help you file your petition successfully. Contact us today at (503) 427-8243, or you may schedule a consultation here.


What is an O-1 visa?

If you are an individual with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture, or television industry and you have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements, you may qualify for an O-1 visa. An O-1 visa can be a great option for many, especially those in the fields of creative activity or endeavor usually not covered by other non-immigrant work visas, such as chefs, hair stylists, makeup artists, and coaches.

How can I qualify for an O-1 visa?

If you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, you can qualify for an O-1 visa if you received a major award such as a Nobel Prize, or more commonly, by providing documentation in at least three (3) of the following categories:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements
  • Published material about you or your work in professional or major media
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in your field
  • A high salary or other remuneration compared to others in your field
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations that have a distinguished reputation

If you have extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts, motion picture, or television industry, you can qualify for an O-1 visa if you received, or have been nominated for, significant awards or prizes such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award, or more commonly, by providing documentation in at least three (3) of the following categories:

  • Lead or starring participant in productions or events of distinguished reputation
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews and published materials in major media
  • Lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments of distinguished reputation
  • Major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by title, ratings, box office receipts, newspaper articles, etc.
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services compared to others in your field

Do I need an employer to apply for an O-1 visa?

An O-1 visa needs a petitioner, and you cannot self-sponsor for your own O-1 visa. However, the regulations recognize that direct employment may not be always feasible for traditionally self-employed workers or those who engage in short-term arrangements with multiple employers, especially in the field of arts. For an O-1 visa, you can have a U.S. agent as your petitioner when there is no appropriate employer. A U.S. agent may act as the actual employer, as your representative, or can even file on behalf of a foreign employer as long as he or she is authorized to do so. A U.S. agent can also file an O-1 petition for multiple employers as long as you submit copies of contracts and a complete itinerary of the events. Unless specified on the O-1 visa petition by your agent, you may not work for an employer who is not your petitioner. If you wish to work for a new employer, you may need to have your agent file an amended O-1 visa petition or apply for a new O-1 visa petition for change of employer.

Is there a wage requirement for an O-1 visa?

The O-1 visa petition must specify the amount of wage offered for your employment or engagements in the U.S. However, there is no prevailing wage requirement for an O-1 visa and no particular wage structure is required. A petition letter explaining the wage or fee structure offered to you and/or a copy of a contract are usually sufficient.

How long can I stay in the U.S. under an O-1 visa?

If you are applying for the first time, you can get up to three (3) years of stay. Thereafter, an O-1 visa may be extended in one-year increments for an indefinite period of time if it is to continue the same employment or activity. If you are changing your employer and therefore filing a new O-1 visa with a different petitioner, you are eligible for up to three years of stay again. At the end of your O-1 visa petition validity period, you will have up to 10 days of additional authorized stay (“grace period”).

Can I bring my family members?

Your spouse or children under the age of 21 can apply for an O-3 visa as your dependents. Employment is not permitted under O-3 visa, but they may engage in full or part-time study in the U.S.


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