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What is the Requirement for an O Visa?

An O-1 visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. An O-1 visa is also for the individual who has demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. Qualified individuals may come to the United States to perform services relating to an event or events if petitioned for by an employer or agent.

Certain employers or agents may also petition for an O-2 visa for foreign nationals who seek to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of accompanying and assisting in the artistic or athletic performance by the O-1 artist or athlete. In this blog, we will discuss the O-1 visa’s major requirements and specific considerations.

Table of Contents

1. Eligibility for an O Visa
2. How to File an O Petition
3. How to Request Premium Processing
4. Required Fee for an O Petition
5. Period of Authorized Stay
6. Change of Employers
7. Changes in Employment Conditions
8. Termination of Employment
9. U.S. Employer’s Liability for Transportation Costs
10. Family of O-1 Visa Holders

1. Eligibility for an O Visa

To be eligible to apply for an O visa, the individual sponsored for the visa (beneficiary) must satisfy certain requirements including the following:

I. O-1A: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics

  • Has extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim;1 and
  • Seeks to enter the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

II. O-1B (Arts): Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in Arts

  • Has extraordinary ability in the arts, which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim;2 and
  • Seeks to enter the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

III. O-1B (MPTV): Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in Motion Picture or Television Industry

  • Has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television productions;3 and
  • Seeks to enter the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary achievement.

IV. O-2: Individuals Accompanying Principal O-1 Beneficiary (Essential Support Personnel)

  • Seeks to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of accompanying and assisting in the artistic or athletic performance by an O-1 beneficiary who is admitted for a specific event or events;
  • Is an integral part of such actual performance(s) or event(s);
  • Has critical skills and experience with the O-1 beneficiary, which are not of a general nature and are not possessed by a U.S. worker;4 and
  • Has a foreign residence which the O-2 has no intention of abandoning.

2. How to File an O Petition

Eligible Petitioners

Only a U.S. employer, a U.S. agent, or a foreign employer may file an O-1 petition.5 An O-1 beneficiary may not petition for himself or herself. Also, the petition may not be filed more than one year before the actual need for the beneficiary’s services.

U.S. Agents

A U.S. agent may file a petition in cases involving workers who are traditionally self-employed or workers who use agents to arrange short-term employment on their behalf with numerous employers. A U.S. agent may also file a petition in cases where a foreign employer authorizes the agent to act on its behalf.

Such a U.S. agent may be:

  • The actual employer of the beneficiary;
  • The representative of both the employer and the beneficiary; or 
  • A person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent.

Evidence

I. O-1A: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics

An individual of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of:

(A) Receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize; or

(B) At least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • Documentation of the individual’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Documentation of the individual’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the individual, relating to the individual’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;
  • Evidence of the individual’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought;
  • Evidence of the individual’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of the individual’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Evidence that the individual has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or
  • Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

If the criteria are not readily applicable to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

II. O-1B (Arts): Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in Arts

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary ability in the field of arts, the individual must be recognized as being prominent in his or her field of endeavor as demonstrated by the following:

(A) Evidence that the individual has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award; or

(B) At least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • Evidence that the individual has 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;
  • Evidence that the individual has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the individual has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
  • Evidence that the individual has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the individual has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the individual is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the individual’s achievements; or
  • Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

If the criteria are not readily applicable to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

III. O-1B (MPTV): Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in Motion Picture or Television Industry

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, the individual must be recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement as evidenced by the following:

(A) Evidence that the individual has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award; or

(B) At least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • Evidence that the individual has 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;
  • Evidence that the individual has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the individual has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
  • Evidence that the individual has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, 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;
  • Evidence that the individual has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the individual is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the individual’s achievements; or
  • Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

IV. O-2: Individuals Accompanying Principal O-1 Beneficiary (Essential Support Personnel)

An O–2 accompanying individual provides essential support to an O–1 artist or athlete. Such individuals may not accompany O–1 individual in the fields of science, business, or education. Although the O–2 individual must obtain his or her own classification, this classification does not entitle him or her to work separate and apart from the O–1 individual to whom he or she provides support. An O–2 individual must be petitioned for in conjunction with the services of the O–1 individual.

The evidence must establish the current essentiality, critical skills, and experience of the O–2 individual with the O–1 individual and that the individual has substantial experience performing the critical skills and essential support services for the O–1 individual. In the case of a specific motion picture or television production, the evidence must establish that significant production has taken place outside the United States, and will take place inside the United States, and that the continuing participation of the individual is essential to the successful completion of the production.

Other Evidence Required

In addition to the evidence specified above, petitions for O individuals must be accompanied by the following:

  • Copies of any written contracts between the petitioner and the alien beneficiary or, if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed;
  • An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities; and
  • A written advisory opinion(s) from the appropriate consulting entity or entities.6

Furthermore, a petition filed by an agent is subject to additional evidentiary requirements. 

3. How to Request Premium Processing

An O petitioner may request a premium processing for the petition by filing a proper Form and filing fee of $2,805 with USCIS. If the petitioner files the request properly, USCIS will take one of the following adjudicative actions within 15 business days:

  • Issue an approval notice, a denial notice, a notice of intent to deny, or a request for evidence; or
  • Open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation

If the O petition requires the submission of additional evidence or a response, the 15-day premium processing time will reset. Once USCIS receives additional evidence or response, a new premium processing time will begin.

4. Required Fee for an O Petition

A petitioner who files an O petition must pay the USCIS filing fee of $1,055 plus the Asylum Program Fee of $600. However, if the petitioner is a small employer (having 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees in the United States, determined by including any affiliate or subsidiary of such employer) or a nonprofit, the petitioner must pay the USCIS filing fee of $530 plus the Asylum Program Fee of $300. If an O beneficiary travels outside the United States, the beneficiary needs to obtain an O visa through the U.S. Consular process, of which application fee is currently $205.

5. Period of Authorized Stay

In principle, an O beneficiary may stay and work in the United States for up to 3 years.

Extension of Stay

An O-1 or O-2 beneficiary may be eligible for an extension of stay in increments of up to one year to continue or complete the same event or activity for which he or she was admitted. The petitioner must request extension of the beneficiary’s stay and the petition, accompanied by a statement explaining the reasons for the extension.

Grace Period

10-Day Grace Period

In addition to the validity period of the O-1 or O-2 status, an O-1 or O-2 beneficiary may stay in the United States for an additional period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends.

Maximum 60-Day Grace Period

If an O-1 beneficiary loses the O-1 status due to solely the cessation of the O-1 employment, such a beneficiary may be considered to maintain the status for up to 60 days or until the end of the original authorized period of stay on O-1 status, whichever is shorter.

Within the 10-day and maximum 60-day grace period, the O-1 beneficiary may continue a job search and apply for an extension of stay or change of status. However, such a beneficiary may not work during the grace period unless otherwise authorized. USCIS will determine whether the maximum 60-day grace period applies to each beneficiary’s case.

6. Change of Employers

If an O-1 or O-2 beneficiary in the United States seeks to change employers, the new employer must file a petition and a request to extend the beneficiary’s stay. An O-2 beneficiary may change employers only in conjunction with a change of employers by the principal O-1 beneficiary. If an agent filed the petition, the agent must file an amended petition with evidence relating to the new employer.

7. Changes in Employment Conditions

If there are any material changes in the terms and conditions of employment or the beneficiary’s eligibility as specified in the original approved petition, the petitioner must file an amended petition with fee. As for a petition filed for an artist or entertainer, a petitioner may add additional performances or engagements during the petition’s validity period without filing an amended petition, provided the additional performances or engagements require a beneficiary of O–1 caliber.

8. Termination of Employment

If the petitioner no longer employs the beneficiary, the petitioner must send a letter explaining the change(s) to the USCIS office that approved the petition. In receipt of the notice, USCIS will automatically revoke the unexpired petition. If USCIS determines that the beneficiary is no longer working for the petitioner in the capacity specified in the petition, USCIS may revoke an O petition approval on notice.

USCIS will also automatically revoke a petition if the petitioner, or the named employer in a petition filed by an agent, goes out of business or files a written withdrawal of the petition.

9. U.S. Employer’s Liability for Transportation Costs

The employer will be liable for the reasonable costs of return transportation of the O beneficiary abroad if the employer dismisses the beneficiary from employment before the end of the period of authorized stay. If an agent filed the petition for the employer, the agent and the employer are jointly and severally liable for paying these costs. If the beneficiary voluntarily terminates his/her employment before the O status expires, the beneficiary has not been dismissed. “Abroad” means the beneficiary’s last place of foreign residence.

10. Family of O-1 or O-2 Visa Holders

The spouse and unmarried minor children of the O-1 or O-2 beneficiary are entitled to O-3 nonimmigrant classification, subject to the same period of admission and limitations as the O-1 or O-2 beneficiary, if they are accompanying or joining the beneficiary later (following to join) the alien beneficiary in the United States. Neither the spouse nor a child of the O-1 or O-2 beneficiary may not work in the United States under the O-3 classification, but they may participate in a full-time or part-time study on an O-3 visa.

USCIS publishes information on an O visa on its website.

Disclaimer

  1. Extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor. ↩︎
  2. Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction, which is a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. ↩︎
  3. Extraordinary achievement with respect to motion picture and television productions means a very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or television industry evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the motion picture or television field. ↩︎
  4. For a motion picture or television production, the O-2 individual must also have skills and experience with the O-1 beneficiary that are not of a general nature and are critical either (a) based on a pre-existing long standing working relationship or (b) with respect to a specific production because significant production will take place inside and outside the United States and the O-2 beneficiary’s continuing participation is essential to the successful completion of the production. ↩︎
  5. A foreign employer here is any employer who is not amenable to service of process in the United States. through a U.S. agent. ↩︎
  6. The appropriate consulting entity means a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability. As for the O-1 petition for an individual with extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television, the consultation must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability ↩︎

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