O-1 Status is a non-immigrant status category for foreign individuals who:
1) possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated through sustained national or international acclaim, or 2) have an established record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements, which must be proven through extensive documentation. O-1 petitions may only be filed by a U.S. employer, a U.S. agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent on behalf of the foreign beneficiary; an individual cannot self-petition for an O-1 visa. Genreally, the O-1 visa allows for “dual intent,” meaning that the beneficiary may pursue lawful permanent resident status while in the U.S. on an O-1 visa without worrying that he/she is violating the preconceived “nonimmigrant intent” requirement under the terms of an O-1 visa. O-1 visa holders do not need to maintain a foreign residence while in the U.S. on an O-1 visa, but must still have a temporary intent to remain.
There are several types of O visas available:
- O-1A: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business,
- O-1B: Individuals with extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television
- O-2: Individuals who will accompany an O-1 individual to assist in a specific event or
performance (must be an integral part of the actual performance, must have critical skills that are not general in nature and cannot be performed by other individuals, and must have a foreign residence that he/she has no intention of abandoning)
- O-3: Individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.
The initial period of stay for individuals in valid O status may be up to 3 years. However, an approved O visa petition will have a validity period starting on the date of approval and ending on the date requested by the petitioner. The ending date may not exceed the date which USCIS has deemed necessary to complete the work-related “event” or activity in which the individual will participate in the U.S. While this valid initial time period approved may be up to 3 years in length, it may be significantly shorter than that. Requests for extensions to stay and complete an event will be considered by USCIS, who will then decide the adjusted time necessary to accomplish the initial event or activity; extensions may be granted in one-year increments.
The requirements for those seeking an O visa (taken from USCIS’s online instructions for O visa applicants):
Evidentiary Criteria for O-1A
Evidence that the beneficiary has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
- Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
- Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
- Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
- Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
- A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
- Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
- Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility.
Evidentiary Criteria for O-1B
Evidence that the beneficiary has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:
- Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
- Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
- Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
- A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
- Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
- A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence.
If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation in the arts, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility (this exception does not apply to the motion picture or television industry).
The experienced attorneys at Gavlin & Associates, P.C. will initially evaluate your situation and assess the options for your potential petition. We will work closely with you in gathering all necessary evidence to get your O-1 visa petition approved and ensuring that your O-1 visa is handled in the most effective way possible, including: communication with your future employer to facilitate their sponsorship for your petition; working with you and your potential employer in drafting letters and gathering evidence for your petition; helping you obtain the affidavit or advisory opinion with an appropriate peer group or independent consulting organization regarding the nature of the work you will be doing; drafting the petition letter on your behalf; submitting the completed petition packet to the proper USCIS Center via registered mail; and following up on your application by contacting USCIS with a case status inquiry.