O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visas
The O-1 Visa is for individuals with extraordinary abilities within science, arts (including motion picture and television), education, business, or athletics at the national or international level. Of the various visa categories by which foreign workers can obtain work authorization in the United States, the category for “persons of extraordinary ability” may be the most restrictive.
Under the law, an “alien has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and whose achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.”
A benefit of the O-1 visa is that persons of extraordinary ability may become permanent residents of the U.S. without undergoing labor certification, the time consuming process of proving that no U.S. citizen is ready, willing or able to take a particular job. Indeed, persons of extraordinary ability do not even need an employer to submit a green card petition to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services (USCIS) on their behalf. They are allowed to “self-petition” for a green card.
Following are the criteria needed to demonstrate that a candidate qualifies for an O-1 visa. If a candidate cannot satisfy at least three of these ten, then the P-1 visa may be a better alternative.
1. Documentation of the candidate’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in his or her field.
2. Documentation of the candidate’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought and for which membership requires outstanding achievement as judged by recognized experts.
3. Published material about the candidate in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
4. Evidence of the candidate’s participation as a judge of the work of others in the same field or an allied field.
5. Evidence of the candidate’s original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance.
6. Evidence of the candidate’s authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
7. Evidence of display of the candidate’s work in the field of artistic exhibition or showcase.
8. Evidence that the candidate has performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
9. Evidence that the candidate has commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services.
10. Evidence of the candidate’s commercial success in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts, record or video sales, etc.
Although meeting three of these ten criteria does not guarantee the candidate an O-1 visa, it does give the agent or manager a good basis for submitting an O-1 visa petition on the candidate’s behalf.