The O1 visa is a non-resident US visa for people who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field, whether that be the arts, sport, business, education, or the sciences.
The O1 could be considered the non-resident equivalent of the EB1-1 ( the “Extraordinary Ability Green Card”, which gives permanent residency). This does not mean that the requirements to obtain an O1 are any lower: the applicant needs to prove they are at the top of their field.
The O1 visa is normally valid for up 3 years. However, if it is granted to cover a specific event, production, or activity, the period may be less. Extensions are available in 1-year increments, and there is no limit on extensions, however the visa holder must show that they are continuing with same position or activity for which the original visa was granted.
Dependents of an O1 visa holder (i.e. spouse or unmarried children under age 21) can apply for O3 visas, which allow them to accompany the primary visa holder for the duration of their stay in the United States, either arriving with the O1 holder or at a later date. O3 visa holders are permitted to study but not to work in the U.S..
Qualifying for an O1 Visa
Applicants must be able to provide sufficient evidence for at least three of the following conditions:
- Have received national or international awards or prizes of excellence in their field.
- Being are a member of associations whose membership requires outstanding achievement, judged by nationally or internationally recognized experts in the respective discipline.
- Their work has been featured in professional or high-profile trade publications, or mainstream media.
- The applicant has served in some capacity as a judge of others in the same (or closely related) field. This could either be individual or as part of a judging panel.
- Have had articles published in professional or notable trade publications.
- Have made original scientific, academic, or business contributions of major significance in their respective field.
- Have served in a leading or critical capacity for highly regarded organizations or establishments.
- Command a high salary or remuneration for their services.
- Other relevant evidence of exceptional expertise that does not fit any of the above criteria.
More Tips on Qualifying for an O-1 Visa
Attorney’s Tips for O1 Visa Applicants
Alternatives to O1 Visa?
- The O1 is very similar to the EB1-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card. However, it should be noted that the permanent residency option requires evidence of more sustained achievement.
- If they don’t meet that standard, they may look at the EB2 (Exceptional ability) or EB3 (Labor Certification) Green Cards.
In the case of O2 visa holders (support personnel), they may be able to move to EB3 Green Card in certain circumstances.
Please contact us to arrange your visa strategy session, where one of our immigration attorneys will be happy to help you navigate your options.