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O Visas for Foreign Nationals of Extraordinary Ability


The O visa category is reserved for highly talented or acclaimed foreign nationals who may not qualify in other work-related nonimmigrant categories such as H, L, or J, or for those who wish to avoid those classifications for various reasons. It is especially useful to artists, athletes, entertainers, musicians, and professional chefs.

The period of authorized stay for the O category is for such time as is necessary to be present for the qualifying events/activities, but in any event no more than three years. Extensions to continue the same events/activities may be obtained for one year at a time.

Criteria for the O-1 Visa

In science, education, business or athletics, the foreign national must prove his or her "extraordinary ability" by providing evidence of the receipt of a "major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize," or documentation of at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes/awards for excellence in the field;
  • Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national experts;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien;
  • Participation on a panel or as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  • Current or previous employment in critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or
  • Past or proffered high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

In the arts, extraordinary ability means "distinction," or "a high level of achievement in the field of arts as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered…" This category requires only that the artist is "prominent in his/her field of endeavor." This can be evidenced either by receipt or nomination for a significant national or international award, such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director's Guild Award; or by meeting three of the following:

  • Has performed/will perform services as a lead/starring participant in productions/events with distinguished reputations;
  • Has received critical recognition in newspapers or trade journals;
  • Has performed as a lead for an organization that has a distinguished reputation;
  • Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success;
  • Has achieved significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, recognized experts;
  • Has commanded or will command a high salary/other remuneration in relation to others in the field.

Immigration Law Associates, PC has many years of experience in preparing O visa applications on behalf of highly talented and acclaimed foreign nationals seeking to offer their talents and skills for employment in the U.S. For a detailed evaluation of your credentials, please submit your CV in our online form or call 847-763-8500.