O-1 INDIVIDUALS WITH EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY OR ACHIEVEMENT
The O-1 Nonimmigrant Visa classification is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability(O-1A) in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement (O-1B) in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. This visa was designed for best-performing individuals in their respective fields who are coming to the U.S. to continue their important work in their area of extraordinary ability or achievement. For example, a leading cancer researcher who is at the forefront of cancer cure remedies and is coming to the U.S. to work as an instructor and researcher for a renowned university such as Columbia University would be applying under the O-1 visa category. The O-1 visa is also ideal for IT entrepreneurs who do not meet the regulatory criteria for the H, L or E visa categories.
There are many benefits of the O-1 Visa category. First, it is broader in scope than other nonimmigrant visas like the H and L. Next, there is no annual quota or numerical limitation like the H-1B and H-2B. Another important benefit is that it is a viable status for individuals subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement of the J-1 exchange visitor program that are not permitted to obtain H or L status until they fulfill the two-year residence requirement. Other benefits include no limit to the maximum length of stay like the H and L visa categories; no prevailing wage issue; more affordable government filing fees than the H and L visas; no minimum degree required; and, a level of flexibility with respect to the “job duties” and/or “projects/events” when the O-1 visa is structured in such a way.
An individual seeking O-1 status cannot petition for themselves — an O-1 visa must be filed by a U.S. employer or agent, manager, concert venue or other qualified sponsor. An O-1 visa can be used for a particular event or project or multiple events or projects and will be issued for the duration or length of time USCIS deems it necessary to complete the event/s or project/s. O-1 visas are granted for a maximum of three (3) years, with unlimited extensions in one (1) year increments.
An O-1 visa holder’s support staff may be issued an O-2 visa to accompany the O-1 visa holder to provide essential support services that are critical to the success of a specific event or performance. An O-1 visa holder’s dependent spouse and children may be issued O-3 visas.
Our fee structure is unique to us as we strive to tailor our services for each client individually. We adapt price standards that are capable of fluctuating for each client depending on their unique needs. Clients may retain us for one or all of the above steps/services.
Our typical fee for a standard O-1 visa case is $7,500, not including the government filing fees, union consultation, and management organization fees. Upon request, we can provide a proposal outlining your custom immigration plan which includes a breakdown of our agreed-upon legal services and your personalized legal fee payment plan.
CASE PROCESSING OVERVIEW
Step 1: Strategy Session for O-1 Visa
This is the most crucial step for your entire O-1 Visa. We will review all of the supporting documents to create a strategy, a customized checklist, and a timeline to serve as the guiding foundation for the entire case preparation.
Step 2: Prepare and Submit O-1 to USCIS and Answer Potential Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)
Our attorneys oversee all of your casework to ensure your personalized strategy is reflected in the work product. This includes crafting your O-1 legal arguments into the proper application format, and completing all of the visa paperwork (forms, letters of support, expert letters, etc.); assembling the Petition and supporting documents; and filing the O-1 visa. We will actively monitor the government’s processing of your visa until a decision is issued including initiating status inquires, responding to USCIS RFE or NOID and following up with I-797 Approval Issuance. See our samples above.
**If you do NOT require an interview, skip to Step 5**
Step 3: Prepare Client for Interview in the US or at the Consulate
For clients requiring a visa interview, we will help guide you and your family in preparation for your visa interview. This includes guidance with document collection and most importantly, simulating the interview to ensure you are well-versed in the application material. We will provide you with a comprehensive strategy for answering inquiries posed, practice questions, thorough feedback, and other tools to help you succeed during your interview.
Step 4: Responding to Consulate Requests / Administrative Processing / Status Checks / Fraud Alerts
After the interview, your visa will either be issued (“approved”) or continued for “Administrative Processing”. Reasons for Administrative Processing include supervisory reviews, additional document requests and potential fraud alerts. Our U.S. or abroad-based attorneys will liaise with the Consular officer on your behalf and work closely with you and/or your U.S. Petitioner to provide any additional evidence and to alleviate any doubts or concerns to ultimately secure your visa issuance.
Step 5: Arrival is Only The Beginning
Our services do not end when you receive your O-1 Approval — this is only the beginning. To help accommodate this reality, our team will continue to provide guidance and support to you and your dependent family members post-approval with the following:
- Consular processing (“visa stamping”)
- CBP – Airport Arrival
- Basic SSA and DMV issues/questions
- General Payroll and taxation issues
- O-1 Itinerary changes
- Referrals to accounting professionals and tax specialists
- and more!
Checklist of Required Evidence
Did you provide the following?
- A written consultation from a peer group or labor and/or management organization with expertise in the field. If the visa is based on the beneficiary’s extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, you must submit separate consultations from the relevant labor and management organizations.
- A copy of any written contract between you and the beneficiary or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed
- An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events and activities
- Evidence of the beneficiary’s extraordinary ability or achievement in the field of expertise
The updated filing fee for form O-1 can be found here.
When you send a payment, you agree to pay for a government service. Filing and biometric service fees are final and non-refundable, regardless of any action we take on your application, visa, or request, or if you withdraw your request.
Eligibility for O-1 Visa
To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.
Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.
Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. 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 to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.
To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television productions, which means a very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or television industry as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.
Under the O-1A visa category, “extraordinary ability” means one of a small percentage who has risen to the very top of their field. This can be shown by the following:
1. Receipt of a major, internationally-recognized award (i.e. Nobel Prize); OR
2. At least 3 of the following:
- Receipt of nationally- or internationally-recognized prize/s or award/s
- Membership/s that require outstanding achievements as judged by experts
- Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media
- Original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance
- Authorship of articles in professional journals or other major media
- High salary or other remuneration for services
- Judged the work of others (on a panel or individually)
- Employment in a critical or essential capacity for distinguished and reputable organizations
- Comparable evidence establishing eligibility
Under the O-1B visa category, the individual must possess “extraordinary ability” by sustained national or international acclaim in the arts or have demonstrated “extraordinary achievement” in the motion picture or television industry.
For the arts, the individual must show that he/she has acquired “distinction” in his/her artistic field. Under the O-1B visa category, “distinction” means “a high level of achievement as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is described as prominent, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.”
O-1B (motion picture and television industry)
For the motion picture and television industry, the standard is higher and the individual must show that he/she reached a “very high level of accomplishment as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered” and that he/she is “outstanding, notable or leading.”
While the standards for the arts and the motion picture and television industry are different, the evidentiary criteria are the same and can be shown by the following:
1. Receipt of a major, national, or international award (i.e. Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, Director Guild Award) OR
2. At least 3 of the following:
- Performed and/or will perform in a lead, starring or critical role in reputable productions or events
- Achieved national or international recognition for achievements as shown by critical reviews/published materials
- Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as shown by title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, record/album/video sales, motion picture/television ratings, achievements reported in trade journals or major newspapers/publications
- Received significant recognition for achievements from organization, critics, or other experts in the field
- High salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in the field
- Comparable evidence establishing eligibility (not available for those in the motion picture industry)
- Consultation/Advisory Opinion: written opinion from peer group or expert
O-1 Consultations (Advisory Opinions)
A consultation is a written advisory opinion from a peer group or an expert in the relevant field.
Motion Picture / Television
The consultation must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the relevant field. It should consent to the offered employment, confirm the individual meets the relevant standard of extraordinary, whether a longstanding relationship exists, and if relevant, whether O-2 support personnel’s presence is necessary.
All other O-1 visas
The consultation must come from an appropriate union and consent to the offered employment (if applicable), confirm the individual meets the relevant standard of extraordinary and discuss the duties to be performed. (Note: O-2 visas for Support Personnel must have a written advisory opinion from appropriate unions describing their necessity to the O-1 visa holder.)
Consultation may be waived if
- No appropriate union exists (under 8 CFR §214.2)
- In its place, evidence that there is no appropriate union must be submitted.
- However, advisory opinion letters from peers may, and should, be submitted since it is still favorable evidence.
- Individual has previously been granted O-1B (arts) status and is returning to the U.S. to perform similar services within 2 years of obtaining a previous consultation.
- Positive advisory opinions should specifically acknowledge the individual’s abilities and experience in addition to stating there is “no objection” to the employment.
- Negative advisory opinions must contain a specific statement of facts that reach the conclusion of “why negative”.
- Petitioner: copy of contract between O-1 Petitioner and Beneficiary.
O-1 Petitioner, Agent, & Itinerary
An O-1 visa must be filed by a U.S. Employer, a U.S. Agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. Agent. A U.S. Employer is the O-1 Petitioner when the O-1 beneficiary will only work for that employer. If a beneficiary will work for more than one U.S. Employer or a foreign employer, then a U.S. Agent should serve as the O-1 Petitioner. The type of evidence required depends upon which type of Petitioner/Agent is filing the O-1 visa. For these purposes, an “Agent” as Petitioner is not necessarily an agent by definition; but, rather, someone in the beneficiary’s field willing to “sponsor” the beneficiary for the duration of the O-1 visa.
Agent as Petitioner
A U.S. agent may be:
- The beneficiary’s actual employer; or
- The representative of both the employer and beneficiary; or
- A person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent.
Agent for Multiple Employers
To act as Agent for multiple employers, the Agent must establish that it is authorized to act as an agent for each employer and must provide:
- Supporting documents of all events
- Names and addresses of all represented employers
- Names and addresses of performance locations
- Contracts between each employer and the beneficiary summarizing the terms of the employment, including specific details re: compensation, services to be provided, the location where the work will take place and the dates of the services
- Explanation of the terms and conditions of the employment
Agent Performing the Function of an Employer
To file as the Agent performing the function of an employer, the Agent must establish that it has a level of control over the beneficiary’s work and must provide:
- Written contract or summary of the terms of the oral agreement between the Agent and beneficiary which specifies the wage offered, the type of working relationship they have and other terms and conditions of employment
- An itinerary summarizing the type of work the beneficiary will be engaged, where, and when this work will take place.
- The contractual agreement should establish the type of working relationship between the agent and beneficiary and should clearly lay out how the beneficiary will be paid. In totality, if the terms and conditions of employment show a level of control over the beneficiary’s work being relinquished to the agent, then the agent may establish that it is performing the function of an employer. This determination will be on a case by case basis and will be based on the contractual agreement, whether written or oral.
Agent for Foreign Employers
USCIS does not require additional documentary requirements beyond the following for the agent as the foreign employer is responsible for complying with all provisions.
- Copies of any written contracts or summary of oral agreement between foreign employer and beneficiary
- Explanation of the nature of events of activities, beginning and ending dates, and copy of itinerary
- Written advisory opinion from the appropriate consulting entities
There must be a legally binding Agreement or Contract between the O-1 Petitioner and Beneficiary. This contract can be an oral contract or a written summary of the terms. Such evidence may include, but is not limited to:
- Emails between the petitioner and beneficiary
- Written summation of the terms of the agreement
- Other evidence that demonstrates an oral agreement was made
The Agreement or Contract must explicitly state what the petitioner is offering and what the beneficiary is accepting to be legally binding.
Itinerary & Validity Period
All O-1 Petitioners must establish that there are events/activities (project, tour, appearance, exhibition, showcase, etc.) in the beneficiary’s field of extraordinary ability for the validity period requested (i.e. a music tour for an O-1 Musician). If the beneficiary will work in multiple locations/perform at multiple venues, an Itinerary with the dates, locations and description of the work/event must be provided. All O-1 Petitions filed by an Agent as the Employer as Petitioner must include an Itinerary — no exceptions. The Itinerary should cover the requested O-1 validity period and should include corroborating evidence (i.e., a contract, invitation letter or email, etc.) for each event on the itinerary.
§ Sec. 214.2(o) Aliens of extraordinary ability
Section 101(a)(15)(O) of Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
O) An alien who-
(i) has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim or, with regard to motion picture and television productions a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement, and whose achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation, and seeks to enter the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability; or
(ii)(I) seeks to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of accompanying and assisting in the artistic or athletic performance by an alien who is admitted under clause (i) for a specific event or events,
(II) is an integral part of such actual performance,
(III)(a) has critical skills and experience with such alien which are not of a general nature and which cannot be performed by other individuals, or (b) in the case of a motion picture or television production, has skills and experience with such alien which are not of a general nature and which are critical either based on a pre-existing longstanding working relationship or, with respect to the specific production, because significant production (including pre- and post-production work) will take place both inside and outside the United States and the continuing participation of the alien is essential to the successful completion of the production, and
(IV) has a foreign residence which the alien has no intention of abandoning; or
(iii) is the alien spouse or child of an alien described in clause (i) or (ii) and is accompanying, or following to join, the alien;
SAMPLE & TEMPLATES
Attorney Brief: [coming soon] We will provide an attorney brief sample for the O-1 visa.
Cover Letter: [coming soon] We will also provide a cover letter sample for the O-1 visa.
Sample Request for Evidence: [coming soon] Requests for evidence can be used to strengthen the case.
Sample Checklist: [coming soon] We look at the client’s unique situation and create customized checklists to strengthen their cases.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long can I stay in the U.S. under O-1 Visa?
As an O nonimmigrant, the beneficiary may be admitted to the United States for the validity period of the petition, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends. The beneficiary may only engage in authorized employment during the validity period of the petition.
USCIS may consider an O-1 nonimmigrant to be maintaining status, following cessation of employment, for up to 60 days during the period of petition validity (or other authorized validity period).
Can I extend my stay under O-1 Visa?
The petitioner must request an extension of stay to continue or complete the same event or activity by filing the following documentation with USCIS:
- Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
- A copy of the beneficiary’s Form I-94, Arrival/ Departure Record
- A statement from the petitioner explaining the reasons for the extension
In order to assist USCIS in adjudication of your request for extension, the statement should describe the event or activity that was the basis for the original approval and confirm that the extension is needed in order for the beneficiary to continue or complete the same event or activity as described.
The beneficiary’s spouse and children must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and submit any supporting documents to extend their stay.
For more information see the Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status page.
Can I bring my family?
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.
What if I change employer?
If you are an O-1 nonimmigrant in the United States and you want to change employers, then your new employer must file a Form I-129 with the USCIS office listed on the form instructions.
If the petition was filed by an agent, an amended petition must be filed with evidence relating to the new employer and a request for an extension of stay.
USCIS may consider an O-1 nonimmigrant to be maintaining status, following cessation of employment, for up to 60 days during the period of visa validity (or other authorized validity period).
What happens if my employment terminated?
If the employment of an O nonimmigrant beneficiary is terminated for reasons other than voluntary resignation, the employer must pay for the reasonable cost of return transportation to the O nonimmigrant’s last place of residence before entering into the United States. If an agent filed the visa for the employer, the agent and the employer are equally responsible for paying these costs.
SCHEDULE A SESSION
Call or email us to set up your 1-hour consultation. Easily pay the $250 consultation fee over the phone or through our email link. If you would like to have a quick chat with our team before setting up the consultation, feel free to use the calendar on the right to book your 10 minute call.