O-1 Visa (Persons of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement)

O-1 visa is suitable for the following categories of people:

  • Foreign nationals who have received major prizes or awards or other recognition for outstanding achievements in the field of arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics and with a job offer from a U.S. company
  • Foreign nationals who have produced original scientific or scholarly contributions in the academic fields and with a job offer from a U.S. company
  • Artists and entertainers of extraordinary ability affiliated with motion picture or television industry
  • U.S. companies to hire foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the field of arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics

The O-1 Visa is for outstanding individuals. The visa enables people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture, or television industry to enter the U.S. for temporary periods of time and has been identified nationally or internationally for those achievements, and to certain assistants and immediate family members of such aliens. The spectrum of eligible individuals in this loosely-defined category also includes chefs, carpenters, and lecturers. Firstly, an O-1 visa is allowed for up to 3 years, and later it may be continued for 1 year at a time where the number of extensions may be allowed without any limit. Spouses and dependent children of O-1 visa holders do not get the status but alternatively qualify for O-3 visas.


To qualify for O-1 classification, aliens with extraordinary ability in the sciences, business, education, or athletics must be known nationally or internationally for their achievements in their mastery field by providing:
Proof of Internationally recognized award achievement which may be a Nobel Prize or a minimum of three out of the following forms of documentation:

  • Documentation of the individual’s membership in affiliations in the field for which classification is needed with outstanding achievements of their members, as considered by recognized national or international experts in their regulations or fields.
  • Documentation of the individual’s achievement receipt recognized nationally or internationally with prizes or awards for excellence in the field where classification is obtained.
  • Proof of having being participated on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a connected field of specialization to that for which classification is needed.
  • Proof of the individual’s original scholarly, scientific, or business-related contributions of main significance in the field.
  • A declaration that the particular has been employed in a decisive or necessary capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Proof of the individual’s initiation of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other leading media.
  • Proof of particular contract that has either granted a high salary or will grant a high salary or other compensation for services, evidenced by contracts or other proved evidence.
  • Broadcasted in professional or major trade publications or major media about the particular, relating to the individual’s work in the field for which classification is needed, which shall include the title, date, and author of such broadcasted thing and any pressing translation.

O-1 Visa Application Procedure

The petitioner should file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS office listed on the form instructions. The petition may not be filed for more than one year before determining the alien’s services. Without a lag, the Form I-129 should be filed at least 45 days before the date of employment. The petitioner must submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the following documentary proof:
The applicant must add a written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person selected by the group with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability. In the case of the O-1 petition for an applicant with extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television, the consultation must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the respective field.

Exceptions to the Consultation Requirement

The consultation requirement may be deferred if the petitioner can indicate that an appropriate peer group, including a labor organization, does not exist and the decision regarding petition will be based on the evidence provided by the petitioner.

A consultation requirement may be allowed for an alien with extraordinary ability in the field of arts and in the case of the arts, the consultation requirement may be allowed if the individual reenters the United States within 2 years of having a previous consultation. In this case, the petitioner should submit a waiver request and a copy of the previous consultation with the petition.

Contract Between Petitioner and Beneficiary

A summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed includes a copy of any written contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary.

NOTE: USCIS will accept an oral contract, as a proof of the elements of the oral agreement by the summation. This proof may include but is not limited to: emails between the contractual parties, a written summation of the terms of the agreement, or any other proof which shows that an oral agreement was created.
In short, the terms of the oral agreement must involve:

  • What was offered by the employer to the employee?
  • What was accepted by the employee?

There is no need to sign the summary by both parties to establish the oral agreement. However, it must document the terms of the employment offered that the beneficiary has accepted the offer.

Continuation of Stay

The petitioner must ask for a continuation of stay to carry forward 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 continuing.

To assist USCIS in adjudication of your request for continuation, the statement should describe the event or activity on the basis of 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 continue their stay.

Family Status

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, for 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 a full or part-time study on an O-3 visa.

Changing Employers

An O-1 nonimmigrant visa holder in the United States can change employers, and then the 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 improved petition must be filed with proof relating to the new employer and a request for continuation of stay.

Change of Material in Terms and Conditions of Employment

If there has been any change of material in terms and conditions of the beneficiary’s employment or the beneficiary’s eligibility, the petitioner must file an improved petition on Form I-129 with the Service Center where the original petition was filed.

Source of Information: www.uscis.gov