O visa was developed for those who have demonstrated extraordinary abilities in a particular field of interest. This applies to individuals with advanced skills in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, as well as entertainers in film and television.
Who Qualifies For The O-1 Visa?
The O visas are non-immigration classifications and, as such, have several different types of allowances. In relation to individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement, there are four sub-categories under which individuals may qualify:
- The O-1A applicant is an individual who possesses special talents and skills associated with various fields relating to the sciences, education, business, or athletics.
- The O-1B application is for those involved in the motion picture industry and television.
- The O-2 application applies to people accompanying those in the first two categories for the purpose of assisting in the performance of the event. In accompanying an O-1A, the individual must play an integral part in the O-1A's duties. For the O-1B assistant, the individual must be essential to the performance or act, which is to be enacted. Additionally, the O-2 worker must possess specialized talents that cannot be performed by a U.S. worker and are essential to the success of the performance to be enacted by the O-1A or O-1B.
The O-1 individual must be coming to the United States on a temporary basis to perform the act for which he or she has achieved international or national acclaim. For the O-1A classification, the individual must be able to demonstrate a level of ability shared only by a select percentage of the population. The O-1B individual must be distinguished as prominent in the field of arts and must be recognized either as outstanding, immediately recognizable, or as a leading star in the visual arts.
Beginning the Process of Obtaining an O-1 Visa
To initiate the application process, the individual must fill out Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The form is then filed with the USCIS office, whose contact information is listed on the form. The process should be started at least 45 days before the scheduled performance, but not more than one year in advance.
Additionally, there are several documents that must be provided at the time Form I-129 is submitted including:
Consultation: This is a "written advisory opinion" offered by a peer group, such as a labor union or professional organization. This document should bear a watermark or other special mark to identify it as an authentic document.
Contract: A written agreement between the petitioning employer and the intended beneficiary. The contract must establish the offered position, compensation and be accepted by the applicant. The offer of employment in the form of the letter suffices the requirement of the written agreement.
Itineraries: A written document detailing the applicant's scheduled list of duties while in the United States. The events and performances detailed on the itinerary must be within the scope of the applicant's expertise.
Evidentiary Criteria: The applicant must provide proof that his extraordinary abilities were recognized. If the beneficiary has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, it will completely fulfill the evidentiary criteria. Otherwise, evidence of at least (3) three of the following must be provided:
- 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
If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility.
There are exceptions and special conditions that can further complicate an application for an O-1 visa. Consulting an immigration lawyer will be the best way to get you through the process, especially considering the time-sensitive nature of these visas. An immigration lawyer can help you prepare all paperwork and present your application in the most favorable light besides ensuring that all of your documents are submitted properly.