The O visa is a rare visa category, but can be a useful option for certain foreign nationals

Intended for those at the very top of their fields, the O-1 visa is a special category that permits foreign nationals with extraordinary skills or achievements to work in the U.S. There are a number of skills and unique requirements that each petitioner must have in order to qualify for this visa.

Understanding the O visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievements

What is the O Visa and Who is Eligible for it?

The O-1 visa classification is intended for foreign nationals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television productions.

There are two visas under the O-1 category: The O-1A visa and the O-1B visa. The O-1A visa is available to individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics, while the O-1B visa applies to individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or TV industry.

What is the Consultation Requirement and How Does it Work?

In some cases, to obtain an O-1 visa, USCIS might require a written advisory opinion in the application from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the group with expertise in the petitioner's area of specialization that supports their prominence in their chosen field. However, not all O-1 visas require this written advisory opinion.

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Is There a Dependent Option?

In addition to the O-3 visa for spouses and dependents, the O-2 visa allows individuals to accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to provide essential support or assistance in a specific event, performance, or production. The assistance must be integral to the event, performance, or production, and the O-2 must have specific and critical skills or experience with the O-1 individual that are not possessed by a U.S. worker.

The O-2 visa is not available to O-1 recipients in science, business or education fields.

O Visa Practice Pointers

When filing form I-129 for an O visa petition, there are several pieces of documentation to include to explain the nature of the events and activities that the petitioner will be participating in. The petitioner must establish that these are events or activities in the beneficiary's field of extraordinary ability for the validity period requested. The petition should also include documentation that proves that the petitioner is well-regarded in the field. This can include awards or prizes, published news coverage or examples of their work.

For a full overview of the O-1 visa, as well as the required documents to apply, download our guide to the O visa. 

Originally published 20 August, 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.