Barst Mukamal & Kleiner LLP has extensive experience guiding clients through the process of obtaining O nonimmigrant visas. The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for an individual who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. The foreign national must seek to enter the United States to continue work in the area in which he or she is extraordinary.
An O-1 visa has an initial period of stay of up to 3 years. An O-1 visa stay can be extended for up to one year at a time. There is no limit to the number of extensions. Extensions may be granted indefinitely by USCIS if the need for continued employment in O-1 classification remains.
O Nonimmigrant Visa Classifications
Several categories exist within the O visa classification:
- O-1A: Individuals with extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, business or athletics
- O-1B: Individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industries
- O-2: Individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist the recipient in a specific event, activity, or performance. The O-2 worker must have critical skills and experience with the O-1 recipient that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.
- O-3: Individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s. Employment is not permitted for O-3 visa holders, but they may engage in full or part time study on an O-3 visa
Eligibility Criteria for O-1A Recipients
Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.
An individual can qualify for an O-1A visa based on the receipt of the Nobel Prize or other award of similar international standing, or documentation of at least 3 of the following categories:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
- Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
- Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
- Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
- Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
- A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
- Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
- Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
Eligibility Criteria for O-1B Recipients Skilled in Arts and Entertainment
An O-1B recipient in the field of the arts must demonstrate distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts shown by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the recipient is described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.
To qualify for an O-1B visa in the motion picture or television industry, the recipient must demonstrate extraordinary achievement as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is described as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture or television field.
An individual can qualify for an O-1B visa based on the receipt or nomination for a significant national or international awards or prizes, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award, or evidence of at least 3 of the following:
- Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
- Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
- Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials
- A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
- Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
- A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence
O-1 Visa Application Process
Documentary evidence for an O-1 visa petition may be in the form of affidavits, contracts, awards, or other evidence reflected the nature of the foreign national’s achievements. Evidence can also include affidavits written by present or former employers or recognized experts in the field attesting to the reputation and extraordinary ability of the foreign national. USCIS considers the quality of the evidence provided along with the quantity of documentation submitted.
A prospective O-1 visa recipient cannot obtain an O-1 visa on their own. A foreign national, however, can file through an U.S. agent. A U.S. agent may be an actual employer of the foreign national, the representative of both the employer and the foreign national, or a person or entity authorized by the employer to act as its agent. Agents, managers, concert venues, or others can file an O-1 visa petition on behalf of a foreign national.
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