O-1 Persons with Extraordinary or Distinguished Ability

The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa available to foreign nationals who have “extraordinary ability”. O visa holders must be entering the United States to perform temporary services for an American employer or an agent of an international employer.

There is an analogous “extraordinary ability” category for green cards. While no guarantee of green card approval, approval of an O-1 visa is nevertheless evidence of USCIS recognition of one’s “extraordinary ability”.

Who qualifies?

The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa available to foreign nationals who have:

  • “Extraordinary ability” in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, or
  • “Distinction” in the arts, or
  • A very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or TV industry.

Extraordinary ability must be established by meeting at least three of the following:

  • Internationally or nationally recognized prizes or awards
  • Published material
  • Membership in an association that requires members to have outstanding achievement
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business related contributions of major significance
  • Authorship of scholarly articles published in major media or professional journals
  • High salary or any other type of compensation
  • Participation on a panel, or as a judge for other people’s work(s)
  • Evidence of past employment for organizations or establishments that have a high reputation.

The O-2 visa is for individuals who will accompany and play a critical role in assisting the O-1 holder. Dependents of O-1 visa holders can receive an O-3 visa.

How to apply for an O-1 visa?

  • It is usually necessary to preliminarily obtain an advisory opinion from a peer group, labor organization, or management organization
  • The US sponsor shall then file for and receive USCIS approval of a petition
  • After USCIS approval, submit a visa application to the consulate.

The petition may not be filed more than six months before the services are needed.

The O Visa can be granted for up to a period of 3 years. Spouses and minor children are eligible for O visas as dependents.

What are some potential problems and issues to consider with an O-1 Petition and Visa Application?

  • Because the “extraordinary ability” and “distinction” standards are very stringent, the documentation submitted in support of these petitions is often voluminous. It is not enough to be “extraordinary”; the applicant must prove that he or she is, and the USCIS puts the onus on the petitioner/applicant to provide the evidence and documentation.
  • Achievements that are not recent
  • Beneficiary seeks to work as a teacher or instructor in the field in which he was an extraordinary participant (e.g., a gold-medal winning fencer seeking to work as a fencing trainer)
  • Beneficiary is at the top of his field only in his home country, not internationally
  • Beneficiary’s compensation is high only relative to those in his home country, not based on international standards
  • Membership in an association which merely requires payment of a fee for membership
  • Articles written about the beneficiary have appeared only in small regional or vanity publications
  • Beneficiary’s articles have not been peer-reviewed
  • Petitioning company does not have an office
  • Petitioning employer does not have the ability to pay the beneficiary
  • Just because USCIS approves a petition does not mean the consular officer will issue the visa. Consular officers are notorious for substituting their own opinions — “you are not extraordinary” — for USCIS decisions approving O-1 petitions. They will often run a Google search on the beneficiary, and if there are not enough links or articles about the beneficiary, will send the petition back to USCIS because “you are not famous”.

How does White & Associates help?

We have been working for petitioners and beneficiaries of O visas for more than twenty-five years to solve the problems listed above. We have helped them overcome USCIS skepticism and consular attempts to revoke already-approved petitions. Because of the rigorous nature of this category, our petitions often include 50–100 appendices. Please contact us so that we may discuss how we can assist you.