O-1 Visa Law

The O-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa classification for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, who have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. To be eligible for an O-1 visa, the individual must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue to work in the area of extraordinary ability.

O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa status is reserved for those who are in a small percentage of experts that have risen to the top of their field. United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) determines whether an individual qualifies for an O-1 classification. The O-1 is a complicated visa category subject to high levels of scrutiny by USCIS. As such, the petition submitted to USCIS requires a substantial amount of evidence. The O-1 visa processing time can vary depending on each application.

O-1 Visa Requirements

Per the O-1 regulations, individuals must document their sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of:

  • Receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize; or
  • At least three of the following forms of documentation:
    • Documentation of the alien’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
    • Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations to the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
    • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;
    • Evidence of the alien’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought;
    • Evidence of the alien’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
    • Evidence of the alien’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
    • Evidence that the alien has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
    • Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

The following documents are typically required to demonstrate that an individual satisfies the above-mentioned categories:

  • Copies of academic diplomas;
  • Updated resume or CV;
  • Detailed description of research (if applicable) in the field of expertise highlighting original contributions made to the field;
  • Copies of awards (if any), together with a description of the significance of those awards;
  • List of publications in peer-reviewed journals, as well as actual copies of the publications (if any) and a citation record;
  • List of professional organizations in which the applicant is currently a member, together with a description of the membership’s requirements, and information about the organization;
  • Evidence the individual has participated as a judge of the work of others or conducted review work. Documentation would include email invitations to review a manuscript, thank you email confirming the review was completed, certificate of frequent review participation from a journal, or serving on the editorial board of a journal;
  • List of invited talks, oral or poster presentations given at national or international conferences, symposia, or annual meetings. Documentation would include email invitations, conference schedule, or certificates confirming the individual participated as a presenter;
  • List of positions with well-known organizations in the field;
  • Letters of recommendation from experts in the field.
    • Letters should address the individual’s accomplishments, original contributions to the field of endeavor, how their work is influencing the work of others, and highlight how the individual’s achievements are above and beyond that of their peers.
    • Variety in the letters is key. It is beneficial to have letters from independent recommenders, individuals with whom the beneficiary has not worked directly, but who are aware of the beneficiary’s work and can speak to its significance.

Part of the criteria for the O-1 work visa is demonstrating sustained national or international acclaim. As such, to the extent possible, the evidence listed above should include national or international significance. For example, publications or review work done for an internationally circulated high-impact journal should be highlighted. Presentations at national or international conferences, documentation of international citations, and recommenders who are working internationally also help support documenting sustained national or international acclaim.

The O-1 visa is employer specific which means that the individual must work in the position and for the employer listed on the O-1 petition submitted to USCIS. The O-1 visa can be requested for an initial period of three years, and may be extended indefinitely in one year increments.

Dependent spouses and children of an O-1 visa holder are eligible for O-3 visa status. Individuals in O-3 status are not permitted to work in the U.S. but are able to study either full-time or part-time for the duration of their O-3 status.

Choose O-1 Lawyer Ellen Freeman To Represent You

You do not have to represent yourself or rely on an employer’s legal representation to advance your O-1 visa application. Ellen Freeman and her team of legal experts are here to assist you in obtaining an O-1 visa and extending it as you advance your career. Give us a call or submit a consultation request through the contact form below.