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O Visa

Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
INA §101(a)(15)(O); 8 CFR §214.2(o)

Businesses may hire foreign employees with “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics” to come work temporarily in the United States on an O-1 visa. The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa for foreign nationals who have “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.  Extraordinary ability means that a person has achieved a high level of expertise in a particular field.  In order to qualify for the visa, the aliens of extraordinary ability must demonstrate “sustained national or international acclaim” in their field of endeavor.  

O-1 visa holders must be entering the United States to perform temporary services that require their expertise for a U.S. employer or an agent of an international employer.  The petition may not be filed more than six months before the services are needed. 

O-1 General Requirements

In order to be eligible for the visa, the alien of extraordinary ability must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of the receipt of an international award such as a Nobel Prize; or at least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • Receipt of a lesser internationally or nationally recognized prize or award;
  • Published material about the alien’s work, which includes the title, date and author of the material and any necessary translation;
  • Membership in an association that requires members to have outstanding achievement;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field published in any type of major professional journals or media;
  • A contract or other reliable evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary; 
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or a related field of specialization; 
  • Evidence of past employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments that have a high reputation.

If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien's occupation, the alien may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility.

  • Advisory opinion or recommendation letter(s) - the petition must include an advisory opinion from a peer group, labor union, or person with expertise in the applicant's field. This opinion can either state simply that the group has no objection to issuing the visa, or can detail the applicant's achievements. If the achievements are detailed, the letter should also address the applicant's ability, the nature of the position offered, and whether the position requires a person of extraordinary ability.

Time Limitation

The O-1 Visa is granted for an initial stay of three years; however, the Visa may be extended in one year increments for the duration of the foreign employee’s work in the United States. Unlike most of the temporary nonimmigrant visas, there is no maximum length of stay in the U.S. for holders of the O-1 Visa.

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