O1 Visas – For the Extraordinary… or Not

30 May 2017

O1 Visa

Now that almost everyone who filed for an H-1B visa is aware of whether they were selected in the cap or not, it is time to explore the options for those that were not selected. A very useful non-immigrant visa is the O1. The O1 visa is defined as for a person who “has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrate by sustained national or international acclaim…”

So, what does it mean to have an “extraordinary ability?” In 2016 the State Department reported that 15,918 O1 visas were issued. That is a lot of people that are extraordinary. The regulations define extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics as “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” However, a field of endeavor can be narrowed to only include a small portion of people, and therefore creating a situation where the person is one of the small percentage who has arisen to the very top.

To prove extraordinary ability you must show 3 out of the following:
  1. receipt of nationally or internationally recognize awards.
  2. membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement.
  3. published material about you in professional or major trade publications.
  4. you judged others works.
  5. original work of significance in the field.
  6. evidence of scholarly work.
  7. evidence of employment in critical or essential capacity at an organization with a distinguished reputation
  8. you commanded a high salary.

Therefore, the process for obtaining an O1 visa is complex. As such, a person should not apply for themselves. An applicant must use a U.S. agent to file in cases traditionally involving self-employment. The agent or employer files form I-129. If there are multiple agents or employers each must file their own petition.

​Feel free to call Yanky with questions about the O1 visa, or leave a comment below!


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