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O-1 Visas for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

O-1 visas are available to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding ability in the arts, sciences, business, education or athletics.  In some cases O-1 visas are also available to individuals who have achieved extraordinary success in the motion picture or television industry.  


Below is some general information pertaining to the O-1 visa program. If you would like to speak with an immigration lawyer regarding the requirements for filing an O-1 visa petition, please feel free to contact us.  Edgecomb Law LLC has a nationwide immigration practice, which means that the firm works with immigration clients in the Boston area as well as throughout the United States and abroad.


Who qualifies for an O1 visa?


To qualify for an O-1 visa, an individual must establish that she has been nationally or internationally recognized as a standout performer in her field, and that she is coming to the US to work in the field in which she possesses extraordinary ability.  Extraordinary ability can mean high-level expertise, distinction, skill or recognition.  O-1 visa beneficaries must be sponsored by a US employer or, where applicable, a US agent.  Self-sponsorship is generally not permitted for O-1 visa beneficiaries.


When filing a petition for an O-1 visa, the petitioner should include a written advisory opinion from a peer group or an individual designated by the peer group with expertise in the applicant’s field of ability. Such peer groups can include labor organizations or labor unions, trade associations, or other bodies governing individuals working in the applicant’s field. Copies of the employment contract or evidence of an oral employment agreement between the visa beneficiary and her employer or agent should also be included in the petition.


Generally speaking, a prospective O-1 visa beneficiary must establish that she has been awarded a major prize of international significance or show evidence of at least three of the following: (1) receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards or prizes for excellence in the field of endeavor; (2) 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; (3) published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers, or other major media about the beneficiary and her work in the field for which classification is sought; (4) original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field; (5) authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought; (6) a high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence; (7) 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; or (8) employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.  However, if these standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility.  O-1 visa petitions based on extraordinary ability in the arts must satisfy a separate set of criteria.


Changing Employers


If an O-1 visa beneficiary changes employers during her stay in the US, the new employer must file an original petition for the O-1 worker. Also, if there are any material changes in the conditions of an O-1 worker’s employment, the petitioning employer must file an amended petition for the worker.


O1 Visa Duration


O-1 visas are valid for an initial period of up to three years, with extensions available in increments up to one year.  There is no limit on the number of extensions available to O-1 visa-holders.


Spouses and Children


O-1 workers are permitted to bring their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the US to live with them.  Spouses and children of O-1 workers are generally issued O-3 visas, which allow them to attend school, open bank accounts and obtain a driver's license. However, O-3 visa-holders are not permitted to work in the US.


O1 Visas for Entrepreneurs

Startup founders and other entrepreneurs may qualify for O1 visas under some circumstances.  For more information, along with other options available to entrepreneurs in need of immigration solutions, please check out our page on Immigration for Entrepreneurs.


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