O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement


The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. It is also available to individuals who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and who have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. The beneficiary may only engage in authorized employment during the validity period of the petition.

Accompanying or following to join spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa but may not work in the United States under this classification. However, they may engage in full or part time study on an O-3 visa.

Eligibility Criteria


  • Sustained national or international acclaim (definition varies by field; see below)
  • Coming to the U.S. temporarily to continue working in the area of extraordinary ability

Science, Education, Business, or Athletics (O-1A):

To qualify, the individual must establish he/she is one of the small percentage of people who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. This is established by evidencing that the beneficiary has received a major internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or at least three of the following:

    • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
    • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
    • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
    • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
    • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
    • A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
    • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
    • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation

Arts, Motion Picture or Television Industry (O-1B):

Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. An Artist described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. The individual must be recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

To qualify, you must provide evidence that the individual has received or been nominated for a significant award such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild award, or at least three of the following:

    • 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
    • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
    • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
    • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or 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
    • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
    • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

Length of Stay

O-1 visa holders may be granted an initial maximum stay of up to 3 years. However, USCIS may extend the time granted based on a determination of time deemed necessary to accomplish the initial event or activity in increments of up to 1 year. The petitioner must request an extension of stay to continue or complete the same event or activity. There is no maximum number of extensions.


An Agent may Petition for O-1. This is especially advisable if there are multiple work opportunities or “gigs” for the Artist.

Additional Details

Support staff of the O-1 nonimmigrant may be eligible to accompany the O-1 holder on an O-2 visa.

What We Do

  • In the past, we have successfully assisted a now Billboard 100 singer, world-renowned/Academy Award-winning musicians, chefs, architects, and numerous talented professionals in their visa petitions. Our comprehensive knowledge of immigration law and visa procedures has allowed us to maintain an effective approach in facilitating successful outcomes for our clients who come to the United States to gain even further recognition.
  • We have successfully represented recent graduates who were unsure whether they possessed the requisite level of recognition, in their O-1 applications, to be classified as an individual with extraordinary ability.
  • We prepare a thorough O-1 application with evidence required
  • Review applications to identify potential concerns that may affect the outcome of the application
  • Provide guidance in maintaining the O-1 status
  • Provide assistance to O-1 holders within the United States that wish to extend their visa, apply for a Change of Status or Adjustment of Status via an EB-1 green card application

Family of O-1 and O-2 Visa Holders

Any accompanying or following to join spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa, subject to the same period of admission and limitations as the O-1/O-2 nonimmigrant.  They may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may engage in full or part time study on an O-3 visa.

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