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O-1 Visa – Immigrants of Extraordinary Ability



The O-1 visa application is a nonimmigrant visa option for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, who wish to temporarily work in the United States in their field of endeavor. The visa is reserved for those who have reached a high level of achievement and can demonstrate with strong evidentiary support, their national or international recognition within their respective field. While the O-1 visa is not a typical pathway to citizenship and does not grant permanent status in the United States, it is particularly useful to pursue certain work-related opportunities.

As the O-1 visa is an employment visa option, it requires a U.S. employer or agent to sponsor the application. The O-1 Visa holder is admitted to the United States initially for a three-year period but may be extended indefinitely in additional one-year increments. The O-1 Visa may be extended until the individual completes the requirements of the job. In addition to the below criteria, the O-1 visa petition must be accompanied by an advisory consultation letter from a labor union or peer group.

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Extraordinary ability for the O-1A (sciences, athletics, business) is determined by criteria that is similar to the EB-1 Extraordinary Green card. For the O-1 individual must either demonstrate a one-time achievement at the caliber of an Olympic Medal or Nobel prize, or satisfy at least three of the following criteria:


  • 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


For O-1B purposes, extraordinary ability is defined as “distinction” in the arts. As with O-1A, distinction can be shown through a one-time major achievement such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Director’s Guild Award, or evidence of at least three 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.

Spouses and children of the O-1 applicant will be able to receive O-3 status in the United States for the same validity period as the O-1 holder. Under O-3 status, the children and spouses will be permitted to attend school but are not permitted to work. When considering the O-1 visa application, please consult an experienced immigration attorney to guide you as the criteria and requirements for the O-1 visa are very specific.

At Colombo & Hurd, our attorneys have extensive experience in successfully preparing O-1 Visas for our clients. If you or your organization are seeking immigration guidance regarding obtaining an O-1 visa, the attorneys of Colombo & Hurd may be able to assist. From our Orlando and Tampa law offices, we provide a strategic and business-focused approach to immigration matters. Call 800-549-5523 today to discuss how our immigration law firm may be able to assist you in achieving your goals.
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