Extraordinary Immigration: The O Visa & EB-1 Visa

Every year, the U.S. government makes a number of nonimmigrant visas available to foreigners with “extraordinary abilities” in the arts, sciences, education, business, or sports. Known as O visas, these permits have enabled a growing number of skilled and talented individuals to travel to the United States: in 2014, there were 83,000 entries while 111,516 were logged in 2017.


The O nonimmigrant classification has four subcategories:

  • O-1A: those with an extraordinary ability in education, the sciences, business, and athletics
  • O-1B: those with an extraordinary ability in the arts or a history of extraordinary achievement in the television or motion picture industry.
  • O-2: individuals who will travel with the O-1 visa holder to the U.S. to assist in an event or performance. They must have essential skills and experience with the O-1’s work that cannot readily be provided by a U.S. worker.
  • O-3: spouses and children of O-1 and O-2 holders.

While many O-1 visa holders are renowned entrepreneurs and scientists, the artist subcategory has made it possible for foreign actors to become Hollywood celebrities and dancers to appear on Broadway. (This is likely why over 63% of O-1 arrivals travel to California or New York.)

What Makes an Applicant “Extraordinary”?

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the applicant must have abilities that have enabled them to rise to the top of their profession and earned them national or international acclaim. They must also prove that they are coming temporarily to the U.S. to work in their field.

What Is the O-1 Visa Application Process?

The institution, production company, or other U.S. entity must file a petition no more than one year before the beneficiary’s services are needed. The petition must be accompanied by the following documentation:

  • A consultation, which is a written opinion from a peer group or party with expertise in the applicant’s area of ability. A consultation may be waived if no appropriate peer group exists or the applicant has extraordinary ability in the arts and is seeking to do similar work within two years of a prior admission.
  • A contract between the petitioner and the applicant.
  • Itineraries accompanied by an explanation of the activities or events that require the applicant’s services.
  • Evidence of achievement in their field, such as a Nobel Prize; an Academy Award; or original scholarly, scientific, or business accomplishments of major significance.

Once issued, O-visas are generally valid for up to three years, although one-year extensions are possible.

Contact a New York Immigration Attorney

Documenting extraordinary ability isn’t an easy process. It requires the petitioner to provide documentation that meets precise and exacting criteria. At RelisLaw PLLC, we can prepare an O-1 petition that meets USCIS standards and facilitates a successful outcome, so that the beneficiary’s skills and abilities can make a positive contribution to the U.S. business, education, science, or entertainment industry.

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We help people from around the world to live and work freely in the U.S., to achieve their dreams, unite families, or escape persecution. No matter what immigration service you need, RelisLaw will provide caring and dependable counsel to you and aggressive advocacy to vigorously fight for you using every available legal avenue. As a global firm, we work with people in countries around the world. We meet clients across the U.S., as well as in New York, Toronto, and Montréal. We also meet with clients globally, located in any country, via Skype and other platforms.

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