O-1 Visa

Being superstar in a particular field of endeavor can come in many forms, versions, shapes and sizes. Some are obvious, such as well known celebrities and where accomplishments are well documented in mass media. In other cases though, foreign nationals of extraordinary ability or achievement may exist in lesser known realms and fields of endeavor and where their accomplishments are far less publicized. Those in the latter category, although less well known, still may qualify for O-1 temporary business visa. In any case though, a filing to facilitate issuance of an O-1 visa must be supported by substantial documentation and a creative strategy, especially for those whose achievements are in the lesser known or publicized arenas.

Applying for O1 Visa

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The O-1 visa is available for foreign nationals who can demonstrate “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics”, or who have established a history of “extraordinary achievement” in the movie or television business and have received national or international acclaim for their performance or productions.

More specifically, O visas are available in the following sub-classifications:

  • O-1A: foreign nationals demonstrating “extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics” and excluding achievements in the arts, movie or T.V. arenas
  • O-1B: foreign nationals demonstrating extraordinary ability or achievements in the arts or in the movie or T.V. realm,
  • O-2: foreign nationals who will travel to the U.S. with an O-1, artist or athlete, and provide indispensable support for a particular production or event and which involve skills specific or peculiar to the event or production at issue.
  • O-3: for the spouses and under 21 year old children of principal O-1 or O-2 visa holders individuals


Approval of an O-1 visa will depend on the applicant’s ability to provide documentation confirming their “extraordinary ability” based on an established history of acclaim, whether nationally or internationally, and that they are seeking to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis to engage in work or activities connected to their “extraordinary ability”.

For O-1 applicants seeking to enter the U.S. based on their accomplishments in science, education, business or athletics, they must demonstrate that they are among a small percentage of their peers who have attained the highest levels of achievement in their particular field.

For O-1 applicants seeking to establish “extraordinary ability” in the arts, a record of “distinction” must be presented, i.e. that they have amassed a record of superior accomplishments as reflected by a level of acclaim or accomplishment significantly beyond what one would consider ordinary or typical and such that the applicant would be considered especially well known, popular and/or distinguished in their particular artistic field.

For an O-1 visa applicant seeking entry based on accomplishments in the movie or T.V. industry, they must document an extraordinary record of superior achievement deemed “outstanding, notable or leading”.

O-1 Visa Process – Nuts and Bolts

The first step is for a petitioning employer to submit Form I-129 within the prescribed window prior to the start of employment, and with a variety of supporting documents including:

  • Consultation – an industry group’s or expert’s opinion confirming that the named applicant has indeed established an extraordinary record of accomplishments. An applicant might be exempted from this requirement if it is established that an appropriate organization does not exist, or if the applicant is seeking to reenter the U.S. for a similar purpose within 2 years of the submission of a previous consultation.
  • A contract or document establishing the terms pursuant to which the O-1 applicant will perform, provide services or be employed
  • Itinerary

Agents – the Petitioning party submitted the I-129 may be an employer or a U.S. agent, a representative of both the employer and the beneficiary, or a person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent.

Period of Admission, Extension

Approved O visa applicants are eligible to receive an initial period of admission into the U.S. for up to 3 years, and can apply for extend their stay for up to 1 year at a time. The spouse and under 21 year old children of principal O visa applicants are eligible to accompany their family member on an O-3 visa.