The O-1 is a special nonimmigrant visa for those foreign nationals that can be classified as extraordinary. Part of the extraordinary nature of this visa is that you can have an O-1 visa agent represent you, provided some criteria are met. This post will help you better understand the rules surrounding an O-1 visa agent whether you are a beneficiary looking to hire an agent or someone who wants to become an agent themselves.

O-1 Visa Background

If you are new to the O-1 visa, then the word “extraordinary” might seem a little bit vague and difficult to grasp. Here is a quick overview of this prestigious visa and the benefits that go along with it.

First of all, when it comes to extraordinary individuals, the USCIS splits them up into two categories:

O-1A: This is for those who can demonstrate extraordinary achievements in science, business, athletics, or education.

  • A well-recognized international award such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal
  • A less well-known award that is nationally or internationally recognized
  • A membership in an exclusive organization related to your field
  • Mentions of your published material in trade publications
  • Scholarly articles that you’ve written for your field
  • Other significant contributions to your field
  • Commanding a large salary
  • Sitting as a judge or on a panel of judges for your peers
  • Holding critical positions for esteemed organizations in your field

O-1B: This subcategory is for those who have achieved the extraordinary in art, film, or theater. You can qualify by showing that you have at least three of the following achievements.

  • The lead or starring role in a production or project
  • A large salary that shows your achievement
  • Having received national or international recognition for your achievements
  • The lead or starring role in a well-known organization
  • Published reviews of your work or work you were involved in that demonstrate your success
  • Recognition for your achievements from reputable organizations in your industry

As we mentioned you’ll need evidence of at least three of the criteria to qualify for either visa. However, if you can show that you’ve gained an internationally-recognized achievement such as a Nobel Prize, Olympic Medal, Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, or Oscar, you can have that take the place of the three criteria.

If your O-1 petition is approved, then you will likely be granted an initial period of stay of three years with the opportunity to extend it indefinitely until your project in the U.S. has been completed.

Who Can Sponsor You?

For many looking to apply for an O-1 visa without a traditional employer, the concept of using an agent as a sponsor can be a game-changer. This route offers flexibility but also comes with its own set of complexities. The agent can either be a U.S.-based agent who is in the same field as you or a foreign entity with a qualifying U.S. agent. These agents serve as the main point of contact between the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the O-1 visa applicant.

The agent usually signs a contract with the O-1 visa applicant outlining the terms and conditions of representation. The USCIS will review this contract carefully to ensure it satisfies the legal criteria.

Your sponsor can also be an O-1 visa agent, which is defined as the following:

  • Your actual employer
  • Someone who professionally represents you and your employer
  • Someone who can act on behalf of your employer

Because of the use of agents, your employer does not need to be from the U.S. However, the agent must be a U.S. agent in order to be able to petition for a foreign beneficiary.

Can an Independent Contractor Obtain an O-1 Visa?

You can obtain an O-1 visa as an independent contractor! Learn more in this guide.

O-1 Visa Agent Requirements

The above information is primarily for those who are interested in obtaining an O-1 visa through their extraordinary ability, or O-1 beneficiaries. Now, we will focus on those who wish to represent beneficiaries and employers as their O-1 visa agents.

One of the unique aspects of using an agent is the capacity to represent multiple employers. For professionals in fields where freelance or multiple short-term contracts are the norm—such as artists, athletes, or consultants—an agent can file a single O-1 petition that covers multiple engagements across different employers. This approach eliminates the need for each employer to file separate petitions, saving time and resources.

An essential component of using an agent is providing a detailed itinerary of your work engagements. The USCIS scrutinizes this document to ensure that the work is consistent with the applicant’s field of extraordinary ability. This itinerary should include specifics about each engagement, such as dates, locations, and the nature of the work to be performed.

Filing as an agent is not the same as filing as an employer. You will be required to present additional evidence to the USCIS in order to establish your legitimacy and your role as an agent. For example, you will need to show under section 8 CFR 214.2(o)(2)(iv)(E) whether you are filing as the beneficiary’s functioning employer, whether you are filing on behalf of multiple employers that you represent for one beneficiary, or whether you are filing for a foreign employer. Speak with your immigration attorney to ensure that you are adhering to the requirements.

Keep in mind that you will need to present the contractual agreement that exists between you and the beneficiary. This agreement should include the wages that were agreed upon as well as any other terms and conditions. This contract can be made orally or in writing, though the summary of the terms and conditions must be provided as supporting documents. Because these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, your summary of the contract will be an important factor in deciding if your agency is legitimate.

Also, you do not need to be an exclusive agent for this one employer. You are permitted to represent other employers during this time. On the other side of this, you also do not need to be an established agent outside of this petition in order to qualify. Essentially, the beneficiary may or may not be your only client.

The O-1 visa is one of the few visas that allow a beneficiary to work for his or her own company. If the beneficiary has full or part ownership in a foreign corporation, he or she can have that corporation act as the employer as long as the petition is filed by a qualified U.S. O-1 visa sponsor agent.

Recommended Article: O-1 Visa vs EB-1 Green Card | Differences, Approval Rate, Processing Time

Working for More Than One Employer

In many O-1 cases, the beneficiary often works for several employers, sometimes switching from one to another as the project progresses. So what if you want to sponsor someone who is working for more than one employer?

In 2009, the USCIS released a memorandum that clarified the details surrounding this circumstance. It states that “if the beneficiary will work concurrently for more than one employer within the same time period, each employer must file a separate petition with the Service Center that has jurisdiction over the area where the alien will perform services unless a U.S. agent files the O or P-1 petition.”

Because of this, there is a clear advantage to using a U.S. agent rather than a direct employer if the beneficiary will be working for multiple employers during their stay.

However, there are several conditions that are attached to petitions that are filed by acting agents rather than direct employers, particularly when filing while representing multiple employers. They are:

  • You must include an itinerary that includes all of the events and activities that the beneficiary will take part in while in the U.S.
  • You must include the names and addresses of all involved employers as well as all of the venues at which the events or activities will be performed.
  • You must provide the contracts that exist between you and the beneficiary as well as between the beneficiary and his or her employer. You should also explain the terms and conditions of these contracts.

How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help

The O-1 visa is one of the most prestigious nonimmigrant visas available. Because of this, the USCIS evaluates each case under very stringent rules. If the evidence you submit does not satisfy the evaluating officer, you could experience a rejection or denial. The best way to ensure that you’ve done everything right the first time and to protect your investment is to have an expert handle your case.

VisaNation Law Group O-1 visa lawyers specialize in helping extraordinary people immigrate to the U.S. We will not only give you expert advice on the kinds of evidence you need to submit, but we’ll also handle your filing and address any obstacles that might come up along your journey.

To schedule a consultation with our office and speak with a VisaNation Law Group immigration attorney, you can fill out this contact form and get started on your O-1 visa today!