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Frequently Asked Questions of O Visa (Alien of Extraordinary Ability in Sciences, Arts, Education, Business and Athletics)

What is the purpose of O visa?

O-1 visa benefits aliens of extraordinary ability in the science, arts, education, business or athletics. The O-2 visa is for certain persons accompanying O-1 artists and athletes. The O-3 visa is for dependents of O-1's and O-2's.

What is the standard of review of O1 visa?

Aliens of different specialties are imposed different standards of review. The standard for determining “extraordinariness“ is highest for business persons, scientists and educators, and lower for the arts. For persons whose expertise is in science, education, and business, extraordinary ability is shown by sustained national or international acclaim and the aliens must have risen to the top of the field. This standard is similar to that the EB1-A immigrant visa. To qualify as an O-1 alien of extraordinary ability in the arts, the immigration rules require “distinction.“ “Distinction“ means a high level of achievement in the field of arts as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that a person is described as prominent, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. Those seeking a visa to work in the television or motion picture industry have a different standard. They need to demonstrate record of extraordinary achievement. All O-1 seekers must be entering the United States to work in the field in which he has received that acclaim.

Who qualifies as an alien of extraordinary ability as scientist, educators, business persons and athletes?

Those foreign nationals must have sustained national or international acclaim and their achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation. In addition, the foreign person is seeking to enter the United States to continue to work in the field of endeavor that is the subject of the acclaim.

What does “extraordinary ability“ mean?

The phrase “extraordinary ability“ means a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of that small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.

How should an application establish that the foreign national has sustained national or international acclaim in business, science and education?

National or international acclaims can be demonstrated by receipt of a major internationally recognized award such as Nobel Prize or the Academy Award. Alternatively, the foreign person must provide at least three of the following types of evidence:

  1. Receipt of nationally/internationally recognized prizes/awards for excellence in the field;
  2. Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts;
  3. Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien;
  4. Participation on a panel or as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization;
  5. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance;
  6. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  7. Current or previous employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or,
  8. Past or proffered high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

May the O-1 visa holder have dual intent?

No, O-1 is not one of those dual-intent visas such as H1B or L-1. However, there is no foreign residence requirement for O-1 beneficiaries. In addition, the approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of an immigrant preference petition is not a basis for denying O status. Therefore, filing I-140 or I-485 alone should not prohibit one from obtaining O-1 visa. But after filing I-485, one should not travel internationally on O-1.

How should an O-1 application establish a foreign national's distinction in the arts?

To establish the foreign national's distinction, USCIS rules provide that the foreign national must have been nominated for or have been the recipient of significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director's Guild Award.

Alternatively, at least three of the following forms of documentation must be presented that establish that the foreign national:

  1. has or will perform a lead or starring role in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation;
  2. has achieved national or international recognition for achievements;
  3. has performed a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  4. has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
  5. has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged;
  6. has commanded or now commands a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field; or
  7. other comparable evidence.

How should an O-1 application establish a foreign national's accomplishments in motion picture or television industry?

To qualify as a person of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, it must be shown that the foreign national has a very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or television industry evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the motion picture or television field. The types of documentation that may be submitted to establish that the foreign national is a person of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry are the same as the evidence required to establish that a foreign national is a person of extraordinary ability in the arts.

Who qualifies for O-2 visa?

The O-2 category is set aside for foreign nationals who will accompany and assist in the artistic or athletic performance of an O-1 foreign national. Such foreign nationals must be an integral part of the actual performance and have critical skills and experience with the principal alien that are not of a general nature and that cannot be performed by other individuals. An O-2 visa is granted to those seek entry to the United States for the sole purpose of assisting O-1 aliens working in the arts, motion pictures, television or athletics. Aliens granted entry with an O-2 visa may not work apart from the O-1 alien to whose name their petition is joined.

What evidence should an O-2 application submit?

To qualify for O-2 status, the USCIS requires the foreign national to submit evidence that establishes the current essentiality, critical skills, and experience of the O-2 foreign national with the O-1 foreign national, and that the foreign national has substantial experience performing the critical skills and essential support services for the O-1 foreign national. For accompanying O-1 aliens on a movie or television production, they must have a pre-existing and longstanding working relationship with the principal foreign national or must be needed because of continuity caused by filming both inside and outside the United States.

Can an O-2 alien have dual intent?

No, O-2 aliens must have a foreign residence that they have no intention of abandoning; this requirement is not imposed on O-1 aliens.

Who can file the O petition?

Class O aliens cannot petition on their own behalf. Only a United States employer or agent may file a petition, and petitions must be filed with the USCIS Service Center in the jurisdiction where the O-1 alien intends to work. A foreign national intending to work for multiple employers must have petitions filed on her behalf by each employer in their respective jurisdiction unless the petition is filed by “an established agent.“ Agents are those persons authorized by foreign employers to file an I-129 petition and to accept service of process.

What documentation should the O petition file?

An O supplement must be filed with an I-129 petition requesting O status. A petition may not be filed more than six months prior to the need for the foreign national's services. The petition must include copies of any written contracts between the petitioner and the beneficiary or, if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed, an explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the time period requested for the visa, and a copy of the itinerary of events at which the beneficiary will perform. An O-1 petition may include only one individual, while an O-2 petition may include multiple beneficiaries which must be listed on a supplemental form. The U.S. State Department bars the substitution of O-2 personnel. Material changes to a beneficiary's terms and conditions of employ or eligibility must be filed in an amended petition with the USCIS Service Center in the jurisdiction where the original petition was filed.

How long can an O visa holder stay in the U.S.?

The period of stay for the O nonimmigrant is tied to the time necessary to provide for the event or activity for which the nonimmigrant is admitted, up to a three-year period. O-1 visa status may be renewed in one year increments, or until the project is finished.

Can my family join me if I obtain an O-1 visa?

Yes. Spouses and children of an O-1 visa holder are eligible for admission to the United States in O-3 status. Dependents need to show proof of the family relationship. Dependents may not engage in employment, but may attend school or college.

What is the attorney fee of an O petition?

Please see the following legal fee chart of North America Immigration Law Group.

What does the legal fee cover?

We will provide everything necessary to file your O petition, including:

  1. Contacting and discussing with your (potential) employer to facilitate their sponsorship for your petition.
  2. After securing sponsorship, we will discuss with you about good candidates to write you recommendation letters.
  3. Drafting recommendation letters for your recommenders to revise and sign based on information you provide.
  4. Drafting job offer letter detailing the position, the project, and your qualifications for your employer to review and sign.
  5. Helping you to obtain the affidavit or advisory opinion with an appropriate peer group or independent consulting organization regarding the nature of the work to be done by you and your qualifications.
  6. Providing a list of supporting documentation you should prepare with the petition;
  7. Organizing all the required documentation for your O-1 petition according to the USCIS regulations.
  8. Drafting the petition letter and revising it to your satisfaction.
  9. Submitting the completed petition materials to the proper USCIS Center.
  10. Contacting the USCIS for the status inquiry of your pending case. AND
  11. Responding to RFE and appeal in the case of denial.

What is the filing fee of O visa?

The filing fee is $325.

Can an O status granted to freelance in an open market?

NO, an alien in O classification may only be admitted to perform services in specific, identified events. O status may not be granted to an alien to enter the United States to freelance in the open market. Examples of an event include a scientific project, a conference, a convention, a lecture series, a tour, an exhibit, a business project, an academic year, or an engagement.

Can an alien do work other than the identified event?

No. An alien admitted in O-1 status may work only in connection with such identified events and an amended petition must be filed to add events not specified in the petition. An exception to this rule relates to an artist or entertainer who will undertake additional performances or engagements that require an alien of O-1 caliber; in such cases, an amended petition is not required.

What is an advisory opinion?

The evidence of advisory opinion must be accompanied with the petition. The employer needs to consult with an appropriate peer group, labor organization, or management organization in the area of the alien's ability. In most instances, evidence of consultation takes the form of a written advisory opinion obtained from the appropriate consulting entity with expertise in the specific field involved. An advisory opinion is not required if the petitioner establishes that an appropriate consulting entity does not exist. In addition, if the petitioner is requesting expeditious handling of the O petition, an advisory opinion from an appropriate consulting entity need not be submitted with the petition. Expeditious handling may be granted with regard to O-1 petitions on behalf of an alien who will be employed in the fields of art, entertainment, or athletics.