The O category is reserved for aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, the artist’s or athlete’s support staff, and the O-1’s spouse and/or children.

To qualify, the alien must be coming to the U.S. to work in his or her area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

The O visa holder can work legally in the U.S. for the O visa sponsor. If, however, the worker wants to change jobs, a new O visa is necessary.

O-1A Extraordinary Ability (Science, Education, Business, or Athletics)

In general, the person must have received national or international acclaim in a particular field. This can be demonstrated if the person has gotten a major internationally recognized award, such as an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize, or has accomplished at least three of the following:

  • received a nationally recognized prize or award for excellence;
  • attained membership in associations that require outstanding achievements of their members in a particular field of expertise;
  • been the subject of published material in professional or major trade publications or major media;
  • participated, on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the field;
  • made an original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contribution of major significance to the field;
  • authored scholarly articles in professional journals or major media;
  • been previously employed in a critical or essential capacity for an organization with a distinguished reputation, or
  • command or have commanded a high salary or other outstanding remuneration for your services.

If the above criteria do not readily apply to the applicant’s occupation, the company filing the immigration petition may submit comparable evidence to show how “extraordinary” the person really is.

O-1B: Extraordinary Ability (Arts or Motion Picture or Television Industry)

When applying as an O-1 alien of extraordinary ability in the arts, the person should start by making sure his or her work fits the immigration law’s definition of art. Or, if working in motion pictures or television productions, have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement. To demonstrate recognition in the field of art, the applicant will need to supply documents showing that he or she has been nominated for or have received significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award.

Alternately, the employer filing the petition can submit at least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions orevents that have a distinguished reputation;
  • evidence that the applicant has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the person in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • evidence that the applicant has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
  • evidence that the applicant has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field, and
  • evidence that the applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services, as compared to others in the field.

O status extensions can be granted in one-year increments in order to permit the O alien to complete the business listed in the initial petition. There is no maximum limit on stay for O aliens, and, therefore, the main issue on an extension of stay is whether the O alien will be working in the same business or activity listed in the initial petition.  

O-2 Support Personnel

The O-2 category applies to aliens accompanying an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance. This person would be acting as an essential and integral part of the artistic or athletic performance of an O-1 artist or athlete because he or she performs support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.

O-3 Dependents

Spouses and minor children (dependents) of O-1’s are admitted under O-3 status with the same restrictions as the principal. They may not work in the U.S. under this classification.