O-1A: The Visa for Scientists, Business People, Teaching

The United States created the O-1A visa as a way to attract brilliant and talented minds of the world for work and to provide valuable scientific contributions to society. The O-1A Visa is offered as an option for scientists, researchers, and business people who have extraordinary abilities within their field. As a scientist who has achieved exceptional success in your field, you may be eligible to live and work within the U.S.

Eligibility Requirements

The O-1A visa is designed for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in their field through sustained national or international acclaim. To qualify for an O-1A visa, you must meet at least 3  eligibility criteria, including:

  • Receipt of a nationally or internationally recognized award or prize, such as a Nobel Prize.
  • Published material in professional or scholarly journals, media, or articles within their field.
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.
  • Evidence of being asked to judge the work of others in the same or an allied field or in establishments with distinguished reputations.
  • Evidence in the form of letters of recommendation from their “peer group” that may exemplify and testify to the applicant’s qualifications. 

Application Process

For those who qualify, and are accepted, the O-1A visa remains valid for a period of three years and can be renewed each year indefinitely. Universities and companies can file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of the visa applicant through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The process can take several months, but the USCIS offers premium processing services for an additional fee. Once the petition is approved, O-1A visa applicants can apply for their visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 of O-1A visa holders may also accompany them by applying for a nonimmigrant visa, which has a similar processing time, so there may be a delay in families moving to the U.S. together or at the same time. 

Although an accompanying spouse or children will not be eligible to work, they may still be able to participate in full or part-time study to continue their academic endeavors. If you or your spouse are considering employment within the U.S. through the O-1A visa, or are an organization interested in petitioning on behalf of a visa applicant, reach out to RelisLaw online, or by calling us at (866) 919-1109.

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