The O-1 Visa- The Cream of the Crop, Rise to the Top!

The O-1 Visa- The Cream of the Crop, Rise to the Top!


Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is a temporary work visa available for an individual who has an extraordinary ability or achievement. The O nonimmigrant visa can be divided into four different categories:


  • O-1A: individuals with a special ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics
  • O-1B: individuals with a special ability in the arts or special achievement in the motion picture or television industry
  • O-2: individuals who will join an O-1 nonimmigrant visa holder to assist in a specific event or performance. If an O-2 is assisting an O-1A visa holder their assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. If an O-2 is assisting an O-1B visa holder their assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production.
  • O-3: dependents, spouse and children under the age of 21, of O-1’s and O-2’s.


To meet the requirements for an O-1 visa, an individual must show an extraordinary ability and the receipt of national or international acclaim for it. This visa is a temporary visa allowing an individual to continue work in the U.S. in the area of extraordinary ability. If an individual is applying for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, they must show some sort of special achievement coupled together with a degree of skill and recognition above that of an ordinary individual in the same field.


To apply for an O-1 visa the petitioner must file documentary evidence such as the contract between petitioner and beneficiary, an advisory opinion from a peer group or person with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability, and other supporting documents should also be submitted. An O-1 visa petition can also be filed by an agent who may be the actual employer of the beneficiary, the representative of both the employer and the beneficiary, or the person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent. And, and O1 Visa Holder may apply on their own, depending on the circumstances as a self petition.


Under this visa, individuals may live and work in the United States for an initial period of up to three years and then apply for an extension. USCIS will determine the time necessary for the extension to accomplish the initial event or activity in increments of up to one year. Any dependents of O-1 nonimmigrants, spouse and children under the age of 21, may be eligible for O-3 nonimmigrant status. However, dependents are not allowed to work but they may participate in full or part time study. O-3 status is granted for no longer than the period of time granted to the principal O-1/O-2 nonimmigrant.


After an O visa holder has completed their stay in the U.S. the employer is responsible for the reasonable cost of return transportation to the O nonimmigrant’s last place of residence. If an agent filed the petition for the employer, then the agent and the employer would be equally responsible for paying the return transportation cost. However, if the O nonimmigrant voluntarily resigned from their employment then they will have to pay for their own cost of transportation back home.


The O-1 Visa is a fantastic type of visa to have and utilize for work and temporarily living in the United States for a person who qualifies.  Moreover, a person who qualifies for an O-1 Visa will likely also qualify for an EB-1 Visa should they ever want to live permanently in the United States.  If you or someone you know have gained widespread recognition in a particular field of study which you think fits into what we have described above, and are interested in finding out more, please consult with an experienced attorney.