The O-1 Work Visa – Individuals with Extraordinary Ability
The United States’ robust economy and focus on entrepreneurship attracts some of the most talented individuals from around the world. As a result, the government makes it easy for highly achieving or successful individuals to enter the US and thrive in their specialized field by applying for a non-immigrant work visa. The O-1 visa category is specifically designed for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement.
You could apply for this visa if you’ve reached international or national recognition or other extraordinary milestones in your chosen profession. In this post, you’ll find all the important details you need to know about the O-1 visa.
What Is the O-1 Visa?
The O-1 visa is a US non-immigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in a specific professional field.
It covers individuals with extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics and individuals with extraordinary achievements in the television or motion picture industry.
The O-1A category covers those with extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, or athletics. Individuals with extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television industry, as well as individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts fall under the O-1B category and their achievements must have national and international recognition to qualify.
Aside from the primary O-1 visa classifications, the O-1 visa has two other categories, which are the O-2 and O-3 visa.
The O-2 visa is for individuals accompanying an O-1 visa holder, specifically those coming to assist an athlete or artist in their performance. The O-3 visa is for family members (spouses or minor children) of the O-1 or O-2 visa holder.
Because the O-1 visa is a non-immigrant (temporary) work visa, O-1 visa holders must leave the US when the visa expires. However, they may extend their stay if they are yet to complete their assignment/performance in the US. Read below to learn more.
O-1 Visa Eligibility Requirements
You are eligible to apply for an O-1 visa only if you can demonstrate your extraordinary ability or achievement. In addition, you must have a temporary job offer to come to the US and work in a job related to your ability or achievement.
O-1A Extraordinary Ability
You can demonstrate your extraordinary ability in science, education, business, or athletics by showing that you are among the top individuals at the pinnacle of your field.
Your ability must also be sustained by national and international recognition. You need extensive documentation to back everything up.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability in Sciences, Education, Business, Athletics (O-1A) or Arts (O-1B)
To qualify for this O-1 visa, you must satisfy at least three of the criteria listed below:
- Documentation of your national or international accolades.
- Documentation demonstrating your membership in associations in your field, which requires exceptional achievements of its members, as determined by national or international experts.
- Published material in professional or significant trade publications or major media regarding your work in your field, including title, date, and author, among other details.
- Proof of significant scholarly, business-related, or scientific contributions in your field.
- Proof of your participation on a panel or as a judge of others’ work in your field or related fields.
- Proof that you have worked in a key or essential role for reputable organizations and businesses.
- Contracts or other proof indicating that you have or will work in a position with a high salary or other remuneration.
- Proof of distinction if you’re in the art field.
O-1B Extraordinary Achievement in Motion Picture or Television Industry (O-1B MPTV)
You can demonstrate your extraordinary achievements in the television or motion picture industry by providing proof of a degree or professional recognition that is much higher than what is ordinarily attainable.
The requirements are not as stringent as that of the O-1A visa. Nevertheless, your achievement must be seen as preeminent.
O-2 and O-3 Visa
O-2 visa applicants must possess the skill or experience required for an O-1 visa holder to perform in the US. Notably, there should be no one readily available in the US to take up the task.
However, O-2 applicants accompanying an O-1 visa holder in the television or motion picture can qualify if they have a longstanding working relationship with the O-1 visa holder.
O-3 applicants qualify if they can provide proof of relationship with the O-1 or O-2 visa holder.
How To Apply For O-1 Visa
One of the key requirements for the O-1 visa is that you have a temporary job offer to come to the US. To begin your application, your US employer must file a petition on your behalf with Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker); the same applies to O-2 visa applicants.
You can also apply if your employer isn’t based in the US, but they will have to use a US agent.
Your employer must submit all the required documents to support your extraordinary ability or achievement. They should apply at least 45 days before your employment date and no more than a year prior.
Furthermore, your employer must provide a written advisory opinion from a social group or an expert individual in your field that can comment on your extraordinary ability or achievement. This is known as the “consultation requirement.”
However, if you’re applying for an O-1B visa, the advisory opinion cannot come from an individual. It must be from a relevant management organization or labor union.
You may request to waive the consultation requirement if your employer can prove that there is no relevant social group or organization available to provide the consultation.
Other requirements for the petition include a written and signed contract between you
Duration Of The O-1 Visa
Your initial O-1 visa is valid for up to three years. You can travel to the US ten days before the start of your visa validity period (unless you are already present in the US and filed for a change of status), and you can stay in the country ten days after your visa expires.
However, you can only work within the validity period, not any additional days that may be granted on your I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record). Once your duration ends, you must either exit the country or you may apply for an extension of stay ahead of your expiration date.
Extension Of Stay
You are eligible to apply for an extension of stay if you’re not yet done with your proposed O-1 activities.
To apply, your employer must file an extension for the O-1 visa, and provide a detailed statement explaining why you must extend your stay.
If approved, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will determine how long you may stay in one-year increments. You may apply for additional extensions if you’re not finished with your proposed itinerary or offer of employment.
The O-3 visa allows derivative beneficiaries (spouse and children under 21 years) to accompany the O-1 visa holder to the US. Derivative beneficiaries of O-2 visa holders can also apply for the O-3 visa.
Your spouse and children can apply simultaneously to accompany you to the US or they may join later. Their duration of stay however will expire once the O-1 visa duration expires.
Derivative beneficiaries of O-1 and O-2 visa holders cannot work in the US under the O-3 visa status. Nevertheless, they can study in the US part-time or full-time.
If your extension of stay under the O-1 visa category is approved, your derivative beneficiaries (spouse and minor children) may also apply to extend their duration of stay.
The O-1 visa may be an expedited route to work in the US if you have extraordinary abilities or achievements in the required fields.
Your US employer or agent may hire an immigration attorney to handle the most intricate parts of the application. You only need to provide comprehensive proof that you possess the required extraordinary ability or achievements to qualify for the O-1 non-immigrant visa.
You may work and live in the US for up to three years with the O-1 visa, and you may bring your family members along.
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