O Visa: People of Extraordinary Ability

This visa allows United States employers to petition for people to work in their areas of expertise provided that they are people of extraordinary ability in their particular field of endeavor. 

The O visa is restricted to individuals, while the P visa allows artists and athletes to enter as a group.  The O-1 visa is reserved for aliens having sustained national or international acclaim for extraordinary ability. 

This would be in areas of science, art, education, business and athletics.  It would also include aliens who have demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry.

The O-2 visa classification applies to an accompanying alien who assists the O-1 alien in the artistic or athletic performance.  The O-2 visa is not available for assistance in science, business, or education. 

The O-3 visa is for the accompanying spouse and children under the age of 21 of O-1 or O-2 visa holders

The O-1 visa has an additional benefit in that it permits those people who entered the United States on J visas subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement to obtain O-1 visas.   The 2-year foreign residency requirement will be tacked-on to the O-1 visa.

Extraordinary Ability in the Field of Science, Education, Business or Athletics

This classification includes aliens having sustained national or international acclaim for extraordinary ability in their particular field of endeavor.  People who have reached the top of their field are those who will qualify for this visa. 

Extraordinary Ability in the Arts

The arts are defined in the regulations as “any field of creative endeavor, such as, but not limited to: fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts.”  The standard of extraordinary ability in the arts is less stringent than in science, education, business, and athletics.  In the former case, (science, education, business, and athletics) a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of a small percentage who have risen to the top of their field is required.  In the latter case, (the arts) it is necessary to prove “a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily accounted.”  In other words, the artist should be prominent, a leader, or well-known in the field.

Extraordinary Ability

Proof of extraordinary ability is required.  This is done by way of a written consultation or advisory opinion from an appropriate peer group or individual who must be qualified to pass an expert opinion on the alien’s ability.  A peer group would include “a group or organization comprised of practitioners in the alien’s occupation.”  If there is a collective bargaining representative of the employer’s employees in the occupational classification for which the alien is being sought, such a representative may be considered the appropriate peer group for purpose of consultation. 

Duration of the O-Visa

The O visa does not have a time limit.  It is initially granted for a period of 3 years and may be extended for 1 year. The extensions would be required for a particular project, tour or engagement.

Extraordinary Ability in Science, Education, Business, and Athletics – Proof

This can be proved by submitting evidence of receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize.  Alternatively, it is necessary to submit documentation proving three of the following items:

  1. A nationally or internationally recognized award or prize for excellence in the field;
  2. Membership in associations in the field for which the classification is sought, which require for membership outstanding achievement, as judged by national or international experts in their field;
  3. Published material in professional or major trade publications or other media about the alien and related to the alien’s work in the field of expertise;
  4. Proof that the alien has participated on a panel or has individually served as a judge of the work of others in the same or associated field of expertise;
  5. Evidence of the alien’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  6. Proof of the alien’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field published in professional journals or in other major media;
  7. Evidence that the alien has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for   organizations having a distinguished reputation;
  8. Evidence that the alien has commanded a high salary in relation to other people in the same field.

It is possible to provide comparable evidence if the above list is not appropriate for the particular field of endeavor for which the alien claims extraordinary ability.

Extraordinary Ability for People in the Arts

In order to prove that the alien seeking entry is prominent in the field of endeavor, it is possible to show that the alien has been nominated or has received a significant national or international award or prize in the field, e.g., an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, etc. Alternatively, it is possible to submit documentation of any three of the following:

  1. Evidence that the alien has performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in a production or event having had a distinguishing reputation;
  2. Evidence that the alien has achieved national or international recognition;
  3. The alien has attained major commercial or critically recognized success;
  4. The alien has achieved significant recognition for achievement in that particular field from organizations, critics, or other experts in the field;
  5. Proof that the alien has received or will receive a high salary for the work to be done in relation to others in the field.

It is necessary to note that the list of proof is not conclusive evidence. The Immigration Service may require explanations or additional evidence to establish extraordinary ability. 

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