O-1 non-immigrant visas are available for those individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics (O-1A); those individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the arts, including achievements in the motion picture or television industry (O-1B); those individuals who accompany artists or athletes to assist with specific events or performances who possess skills essential to the event/performance(O-2); and those individuals who are married to or are the children of O-1’s and O-2’s.
To qualify for an O-1 visa, the individual must demonstrate extraordinary ability in a certain area or field, and the ability must be substantiated by national or international acclaim. Extraordinary ability in the areas of science, education, business or athletics is defined as possessing a level of expertise such that the person is in a small percentage of those who have risen to the very top of their field. Extraordinary ability in the field of art is defined as distinction and recognition.
To apply for an O-1 visa, the individual must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS. The Petition must be filed within one (1) year of the individual’s actual need for the visa, but at least forty-five (45) days prior to the event/performance. The Petition must contain:
- a written advisory opinion from a peer group, such as a labor organization, to demonstrate the individual’s expertise. There are limited exceptions to the written advisory opinion requirement.
- a written contract between the individual and the beneficiary. In specific circumstances, USCIS will accept the terms of an oral contract.
- an itinerary of the event or activity, including beginning and ending dates.
- for O-1A, evidence that the individual received a major, nationally or internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel prize, membership in a notorious association, published material, original contributions of major significance, participation on a panel, employment by a distinguished organization, and/or yields a high salary.
- for O-1B, evidence that the individual performed as a lead, starring role or critical role, the individual has a record of critically acclaimed success, received significant achievement from organizations, and/or yields a high salary.
A U.S. Agent may be the actual employer of the individual, the representative of both the employer and the individual, or a person or entity authorized by the employer to act on behalf of the employer as its agent. If an agency relationship is involved, additional documentary evidence is required.
For O-2 visas, the individual must also file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the petition must be filed in conjunction with the O-1A and O-1B visa application. Evidentiary support in the form of a written consultation from the appropriate labor organization must accompany the petition.
Once the Petition is approved, the initial length of stay permitted is up to three (3) years; however, USCIS will determine any extensions based upon the time necessary to accomplish the event/activity in increments of up to one (1) year.
Family members of O-1 and O-2 visa holders may accompany or join the individual, but must be married to the individual and/or be a child of the individual under the age of twenty-one (21). They may not work in the U.S., but may engage in full-time or part-time studies while on an O-3 visa. Should the O visa holder be terminated by the employer for reasons other than voluntary resignation, the employer is required to pay the reasonable cost of return transportation to the individual.
To discuss the O visa process in further detail, please contact Tanner Law Offices, LLC at 717-731-8114 to schedule a consultation.