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O Visas For Extraordinary Ability In Business, Science, Arts Or Athletics

For the O-1 category, the applicant must exhibit sustained national or international recognition. If the field is in cinema or TV, documentation need only be shown of prominence in the field. Essential personnel such as choreographers for dancers, or for opera performances, or arrangers, designers and even for animal trainers are eligible.

Although the O visa is for temporary employment, concurrent applications for permanent residence are allowed as the statute permits dual intent. Accompanists or assistants may be granted an O-2 visa as long as the accompanist or assistant is an integral part of the event, and the accompanist or assistant has special ability and experience that cannot be duplicated by anyone else. For the O-2, a foreign residence is required which the applicant has no intent to abandon.
The O-1’s ability must be such that he/she is one of a small percentage that has risen to the top of the profession or a high level of achievement substantially greater than ordinarily encountered. For the performing arts, proof that the artist is prominent in the field is sufficient.

Proof required for outstanding ability

Major internationally recognized awards would be enough or fulfilling at least three of the criteria below:

  1. A nationally or internationally recognized award;
  2. Membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement;
  3. Published materials about the applicant in professional or major trade publications;
  4. Nomination to judge the work of others in the field of endeavor;
  5. Original scientific or scholarly works of major significance in the field;
  6. Authorship of scholarly work;
  7. Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity with an organization with a distinguished reputation;
  8. Earning a high salary in relation to others in the field.

Proof required for the arts

Nomination for an international or national award or prize or for showing the applicant qualifies for at least three of the criteria below:

  1. Having a lead part in a distinguished production;
  2. Critical reviews in prominent newspapers or trade journals;
  3. A major position in a organization that has a distinguished reputation;
  4. A record of a major commercial or critically acclaimed success;
  5. Significant recognition from an organization, or from critics, or other recognized experts in the field;
  6. Earning a high salary

Alternative evidence

In the arts, science, education, business or athletics, comparable evidence may serve if the aforementioned criteria do not readily apply in the occupation for which the applicant is applying.

Advisory opinions

Advisory opinions from appropriate unions, if one exists, describing the beneficiary’s ability and achievements in the field for the duties are required or if no union exists, then from any expert source.


The O-1 candidate may not self-petition. Where the applicant is self employed, a U.S. agent is required to file for the applicant. The petition may not be filed more than one year earlier than the work will commence. If the work will be in different places an itinerary must be provided. If there will be several employers, each employer must file although if there is an agent, the agent may file for all. The period of the authorized stay will be issued for the time needed for the event but in no case for more than three years. Extensions in increments of one year may be allowed.

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