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O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability Foreigners to Work in US

The O-1 visa is an increasing used visa to get foreigners to work in the US. Essentially it is a non-immigrant visa that allows people who possesses extraordinary ability in business educations, arts, science, entertainment (TV or Movie) or athletics,who have demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement which is nationally and/or internationally recognized and verifiable. It is also a dual-intent visa meaning the sponsored employee can via their company be sponsored for Permanent Residency in the US.

The O-1A visa is for people in the humanities sector like business or science and O-1B visa is for those in the entertainment industry. Sometimes it is easy to prove the eligibility for the visa type like being a Nobel Prize winner or Olympic medal which shows you are clearly top 1% of your chosen field, however in most cases it is more subjective. In that vein a O-1 applicant’s package is more comprehensive than say an H-1B visa, and needs to include at least 3 of the following forms of proof.

  • Proof of applicant’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Proof of applicant’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Evidence that the individual has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • Documented proof of the individual’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Documented proof of the individual’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  • Published material in professional and/or major trade publications or major media about the individual, relating to the individual’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;
  • Proof of the applicant’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought;
  • Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

There is also an O-2 visa for assistants and support staff of the primary applicant and an O-3 visa for dependent spouses or children of the primary O-1 visa applicant. The O-2 applicant has to be considered an integral part of the primary applicant’s activity or event. Also it has to be proved that the tasks required of the O-2 applicant couldn’t readily be performed by a US worker.

The initial period for the O-1 visa holder is 3 years with renewability for 1 years increments indefinitely following. It is thought b/c of the nature of these individuals many would be sponsored for a Green Card under EB-1 and EB-2 easily by their employers with little waiting period. However the reality is that may not happen in practice so simply due to the cost and complex process and application times. The current proposed immigration laws are hoping to address is by making the path to Permanent Residency for these foreigners quicker and smoother.

In recent years to overcome things like the H-1B demand and quotas and risks like the H-1B visa lottery, the O-1 visa has been increasingly used to get high skilled foreign workers into the country who are unable to fit into the arbitrary quotas. It was originally introduced in 1990 and is used evermore for white-collar type work from originally being a major haven of entertainers, athletes and other people of major fame.