What is an O-1 visa?

The O-1 visa is granted to individuals with extraordinary abilities (or achievements) who have reached the top of the following fields: arts, sciences, athletics, business, motion picture, television or education, and in which they have been recognized nationally or internationally for those abilities and achievements.

General Categories of O-1 visas:

There are two main categories for an O-1 visa:

  • O-1A: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion picture or television industry)
  • O-1B: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry

General Qualifications:

In order to qualify for an O-1 visa, you must present:

  • Evidence that you are recognized nationally or internationally as extraordinary in your field. This evidence must consist of at least three categories of achievements. In addition, each piece of evidence must be accompanied by supporting explanations from independent objective sources.
  • Evidence that the employment sought requires the skills of someone with 'extraordinary ability'.

O-1A Eligibility

In order to show extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics, you must show a level of expertise indicating that you are one of the small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of your field.

O-1B Eligibility

In order to show extraordinary ability in the field of arts, the requirement is “distinction”. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts. This is evidenced by a degree of sill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, you must demonstrate extraordinary achievement. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

The O-1 Visa is highly competitive, and USCIS receives a large number of applications each year.

One of the benefits of hiring an immigration attorney for your O-1 visa application is it can significantly increase your chance of approval. The immigration attorneys at the Scott Law Firm are skilled at crafting compelling arguments and presenting evidence that will demonstrate your extraordinary ability in your field. Our specialized attorneys will work closely with you to gather the necessary documentation and evidence to support your case, as they understand what the USCIS officers are looking for when evaluating the O-1 application. With their experience, they can develop a strong persuasive application and avoid common pitfalls that may lead to rejection.

O-2 Visas

O-2 visas may be available for individuals who will accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance.

O-2 under O-1A: In order to qualify for an O-2 visa, your assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A visas holder’s performance, and you must have critical skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder that are not of a general nature and cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker.

O-2 under O-1B: In order to qualify for an O-2 visa in the motion picture or television industry, you must have skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder that are not of a general nature and which are critical either based on a pre-existing longstanding working relationship, or, with respect to the specific production, because significant production (including pre- and post-production work) will take place both inside and outside the United States and your continuing participation is essential to the successful completion of the production.

Period of Stay

The initial period of stay for an O-visa is up to three (3) years. USCIS may grant an extension of stay thereafter. They will determine the time you need to accomplish the initial event or activity in increments, up to one year, upon the application for such.

The Process

The process to obtain an O-1 visa can be very complicated, and retaining an attorney who thoroughly understands the process can help ensure that you get the visa you need as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Step 1: Petitioner (Employer) files Form I-129

Step 2: Petitioner receives receipt notice

Step 3: Biometrics services notice, if applicable

Step 4: Interview, if required.

Step 5: Receive decision.

Family and Children

If your spouse and children under the age of 21 will accompany you or join you later (called “following to join”), they may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa, that will be subject to the same period of admission and limitations as you. They may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may participate in full-time or part-time study on an O-3 visa.


The visa application process involves an extensive amount of paperwork and adherence to strict legal requirements. Any errors or omissions in your application could lead to delays or denials, which is why having a skilled immigration attorney by your side is crucial.Contact our experienced immigration attorneys to help with your O-1 Visa petition today!

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