O-1 is a work visa for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The O-1 gives you three years of work authorization in the United States that can be renewed indefinitely.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by “sustained national or international acclaim.” In addition, you must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in your area.

You don’t have to meet a minimum salary requirement, hold a college degree, be a Nobel Laureate or rock star to get the O-1 approved. Instead, you have to show that you have an extraordinary ability by meeting the criteria below. Distinguished entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, start-up founders, athletes, models, artists, and other creatives are eligible to apply. 

Extraordinary ability in business, science, education, or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are on the top of your field. It generally means that you are an expert and have received recognition in your area.

Extraordinary ability in the arts means distinction evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, or well-known – nationally or internationally.

To qualify for an O-1 visa as a TV or motion picture professional, you must demonstrate extraordinary achievement. Evidence is a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered; you are recognized as notable, outstanding, or leading in the motion picture or television field.

Start-up founders, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, key employees, managers, directors, software developers, engineers, researchers, photographers, UX-designers, fashion designers and stylists, marketing and branding professionals, public relations directors, athletes and coaches, chefs and sommeliers, lecturers, artists, architects, entertainers, gallery owners, agents, producers, athletes are welcome to apply if they meet specific O1A criteria.

As an entrepreneur, you can qualify as having the extraordinary ability – even if your start-up is only in the seed stage now.

This list is not comprehensive, so don’t hesitate to reach out to ask about your eligibility

You are qualified if you have received a significant award (at the caliber of an Olympic Medal or Nobel prize), or you can provide evidence to document at least three of the following:

  • Membership in an association that requires distinguished achievements (a start-up accelerator, an invitation only-business organization, a union of designers);
  • Mentions in major media or trade publications about you or your work;
  • Judging other professionals in your field (peer-reviewing scholarly work of others, serving on a panel, judging a competition like Startup Weekend, or mentoring other professionals);
  • The original contribution of major significance in your field (you have created an innovative start-up or have discoveries in the scientific field);
  • Authorship of scholarly articles published in leading media or professional journals;
  • You are a “critical” or “essential” employee (you currently or have in the past played a crucial role in an organization with reputation);
  • High salary and other compensation, such as equity, as compared to your peers;
  • National or international awards.

The documentation for an O-1B (Arts) petition must prove that you have been nominated or received a significant national/international award. Or you need evidence that 

  • you have achieved recognition and commercial or critically acclaimed success (your evidence are publications in media, ratings, testimonials of experts);
  • you obtained (or will command) a high salary than others in the field (evidenced by contracts);
  • you have performed, and will perform:
                     – in a leading role;
                     – in critically acclaimed films, plays, or other events/productions;
                     – for a prestigious organization.

Contact us if you’re not sure if you have relevant evidence.

  • The number of O-1s is not limited (no annual lottery in contrast with H1B).
  • No industry requirements.
  • No salary minimums.
  • No required university degree.
  • Later, you will be able to apply for a green card and get permanent residence.
  • O visa petitions can be approved by the U.S. Immigration Services within 15 days of applying.

Standard processing will take 3-6 months. If you decide to pay the premium processing fee ($2500), you will receive a governmental response within 15 calendar days.

The O-1A is valid for three years. After that, you can apply for unlimited extensions. The O-1 often offers a direct path to permanent residency (Green Card) via an immigrant visa petition based on extraordinary ability (EB1a green card category).

A job offer from an American employer is a basic requirement for the O visa. A U.S. employer, agent, or foreign employer through a U.S. agent should file Form I-129 not later than 45 days before the start date of employment. Independently filing this visa petition and petitioning for yourself is not allowed.

If you want to change jobs while on O1A status, a new O1 visa petition will be necessary. And sometimes, O-1s can be sponsored by a U.S. company that is in business as an agent. Under this option, it is possible to work for multiple U.S. clients.

If a start-up founder applies for O1A, you will usually choose someone who has authority on behalf of the company to sign the government forms and letters (typically, a co-founder or board member).

Yes! For spouses and children, the O-3 classification may be an option. Under this visa classification, there is no work authorization, but the study is permitted. In addition, O-2 is available for people accompanying an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance.

The H-1B requires a U.S. Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent), has certain limitations like a lottery selection for processing on the merits, and a six-year limit for staying in the U.S. O-1As don’t have an annual cap. You can apply any time of year and can extend your visa indefinitely.

Document all your professional accomplishments, awards, speaking assignments, original written material, publications about your work or business. The O-1 requires a lot of evidence, so the more organized you are, the better.

Prepare a detailed CV that lists your education, work history, area of expertise, and other accomplishments (awards, publications, expert engagements, mentorship, any instances you judged).

Next, compile a list of people who would be willing to write recommendation letters for you. Ask for their CVs or print their LinkedIn profiles. Describe each person’s area of expertise and what each person can tell about you.

Canadian singer Justin Bieber, Canadian model Shera Bechard, columnist and editor Clive Crook, director Gavin Free, Filipina actress and concert performer Jolina Magdangal, English broadcaster Piers Morgan, English musician Gary Numan, Brazilian footballer Pelé, South Korean rapper Psy, Welsh actor Taron Egerton, and Kenyan programmer and entrepreneur Mubarak Muyika, to name a few.

Moving to another country is a hassle – we have experienced it firsthand. Please reach out to us at any time for your immigration questions and needs. 

Book a consultation here for our experienced immigration attorney Katya Stelmakh to evaluate if you qualify for an O-1 visa.