Overview of O-1A Visas

There are a number of options available for bringing over exceptional foreign talent to the U.S. O visas, which is a family of non-immigrant (temporary) visas, are meant for allowing exceptional workers from a select group of industries to work in the U.S. for a period of time. Within that family is the O-1A visa, which is reserved for individuals who have shown extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, or athletics.

What Conditions Must Exist for O-1A Applicants?

Before you submit any paperwork on behalf of yourself or a prospective employee you are sponsoring, there must be an existing job offer extended in the U.S. in the field for which the applicant is recognized as being exceptional. Once you have a job offer in place, you should then start gathering documentation to bolster your application. Proof of any three of the following evidentiary criteria is generally required for O-1A visa applications:

  • A nationally or internationally recognized award for exceptional work (Olympic medalists and Pulitzer Prize winners do not need to satisfy two other criteria to qualify for an O-1A visa)
  • Published articles detailing achievements in the applicant’s line of work
  • A high level of compensation for work performed
  • Prior experience judging and assessing others in the applicant’s line of work
  • Received prizes for work-related achievements
  • Conducted or contributed to original research
  • Member of a highly reputable association or organization that mandates a high level of achievement and success for membership 

What makes O-1A visas more difficult to obtain than other employment-based visas is the requirement for applicants to stand on their own achievements, rather than simply being associated with an esteemed organization. Besides documentation, you should also solicit testimonials from colleagues. After you have gathered these documents and sent them to your prospective employer, they will submit Form I-129 to USCIS. Applicants will also need to fill out Form DS-160, which checks the background and personal information of the applicant. 


Fortunately for O-1A visa applicants, there are no caps or limits on the amount of recipients, so you are not in competition with anyone else. However, it is still somewhat difficult to secure an O-1A visa. To have the best chance at succeeding in your application, you need to speak with a qualified and competent immigration law attorney. RelisLaw would be honored to help you navigate the U.S. immigration system; call us today at 1-800-514-4290 to get started.

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