Extraordinary Ability Aliens O-1

For Foreign Nationals of Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Arts, Education, Business, or Athletics to Undertake a Specific Activity or Event in The United States

  1. Eligibility Requirements
  2. Qualifications
  3. Duration of O Visa
  4. Family Eligibility

1. Eligibility

The O Visa category was created to allow foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education , business, or athletics to undertake a specific activity in the United States. There are three different standards for the O-1 category. The most stringent apply to foreign nationals in the sciences, education, business and athletics. A less rigorous standard is applied to those foreign nationals who have had extraordinary achievement in the film or television industries. An even less rigorous standard applies to those claiming extraordinary ability in the arts in that they have only to show that they have achieved a level of distinction in their field.

The O visa is filed by the employer or contractor of the services of the foreign national and must be accompanied by extensive documentation evidencing the need for such an individual.

2. Qualifications

Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business and athletics must show that they are among a small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of his or her field.

They must also evidence receipt of a major internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize or, in the alternative, they must show at least three of the following:

  1. Receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement in the field;
  2. Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members;
  3. Published material in professional publications written by others about the alien’s academic work;
  4. Participation as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field;
  5. Original scientific or scholarly research contributions to the field;
  6. Authorship of scholarly books or articles in the field;
  7. Display of alien’s work at exhibitions, etc.;
  8. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  9. Performance in a leading or critical role for organizations with a distinguished reputation;
  10. High salary or other remuneration

Our offices specialize in obtaining O-visas for scientists, researchers and professors of extraordinary ability. We know the intricacies of the documentary requirements such as the advisory opinion that must be obtained from a peer group in the foreign national’s field of expertise–more importantly we know when such an opinion may be waived.

Because you are permitted to have a dual intent (to work temporarily and apply for immigration) under the O-1 visa, we often file an immigration petition for our clients at the same time that we file the O-1 visa. Usually, we do so under the Extraordinary Ability or Outstanding Researcher categories.

3. Duration of O Visa

There is no set statutory limitation on the period of stay for O-1 visa holders. The initial period may cover just that time that is needed for the completion of the event or activity up to a period of three years. The USCIS defines event as an activity such as a scientific project, conference, convention, lecture series, business project, academic year or engagement.

Extensions of stay can be granted for a period of up to one year as long as it involves the same event or activity for which the O-1 visa holder was admitted.

4. Family Members of O-1 Visa Holders

The spouse and unmarried minor children of the O visa holder can reside in the U.S. for the duration of the O visa but they are not permitted to work in the U.S. unless they qualify separately for work authorization.