O Visa Requirements: For Visitors of Extraordinary Ability

By Katherine at Legal Language
Posted on 01/17/2011
In Employment-Based, Immigration



For foreign nationals who want to come to the United States on an O visa, the requirements are strict — they must be deemed “aliens of extraordinary ability.”

For this reason, O visas often go to celebrities and people with high achievements — but not every O visa recipient is someone well-known. Could you qualify for an O visa?

What Are the O Visa Requirements?

An O Visa is a nonimmigrant visa meant for foreign nationals who have extraordinary aptitude in one of the following fields:

  • Arts
  • Athletics
  • Business
  • Education
  • Sciences

Under the above classifications, foreign nationals who meet these requirements are granted an O-1A visa. However, O-1B visas are also awarded to individuals in the film and television industry who have achieved national or international recognition for their work.

O-2 visas may also be given out to individuals who work in assisting or accompanying an O-1A or O-1B visa holder. These accompanying individuals must prove to be essential to the production or work to be performed.

What Is “Extraordinary Ability”?

For a visitor to be classified as having extraordinary ability in his or her field, substantial evidence must be provided. This can be done through distinctions given through awards of excellence or letters of recommendation from colleagues of equal or higher esteem. Examples of evidence proving extraordinary ability would include national or international awards, membership in organizations, published materials or participation in panels.

Finding sufficient evidence or supporting facts to prove extraordinary ability to meet the O visa requirements can be very difficult. Those seeking to enter the United States with an O visa will need to make sure that they provide the right documentation. In many cases, assistance from an immigration attorney may be needed in order to help set up and present a satisfactory case to US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers.

Even if you are not a celebrity or a household name, you may be able to meet the requirements for an O visa. For example, a high salary in a well-known industry may also be considered evidence of extraordinary ability. And O-1A visas may be easier to obtain than the more celebrity-oriented O-1B visa.

O-1 Visa Application Process & Duration of Stay

The O visa application takes about one month to process — although, like all other visas, this time frame may change depending on the number of visa applications USCIS is currently processing.

The O visa application process is eligible for expedited processing. A premium fee of $1,000 results in a decision given after only 15 days.

For O visa holders who wish to take their family to the United States during their stay, spouses and children of the visa holders often qualify for an O-3 visa. O-3 visas are granted for the family members of O-1A, O-1B and O-2 visa holders.

The O visa duration of stay is generally capped at three years. As a bonus, it is common and generally fairly easy for foreign nationals who have already met the O visa requirements and proven extraordinary ability to extend their visa for a longer stay in the United States.


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