O-1 Visa

If your company needs to bring someone with extraordinary ability into the United States for work, you should consider consulting with an O-1 visa lawyer. An O-1 visa is designed to allow foreigners at the very top of the arts, sciences, sports, education, business, motion picture or television industries entry into the United States for work for an initial period of up to three years. O-1 visa extensions can be obtained if a person of extraordinary ability is needed in the United States beyond three years. An important reason to consider an O-1 visa when possible is that essential assistants of the person with extraordinary ability can qualify for an O-2  visa, which allows them entry into the United States for work as well. For example, a scientist might be able to obtain an O-2 visa for an essential lab assistant or an actor may need an O-2 for a publicist. VisaNationa attorneys have extensive experience with securing O-1 and O-2 visa approvals. Schedule a consultation and learn more about your options.

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What is O-1 Visa 

O-1 Visas are for individuals who have been recognized nationally or internationally and have either extraordinary ability in the sciences, business, education, arts, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in motion pictures or television. An O-1A visa is for individuals in business, education, sciences or athletics. An O-1B visa is for individuals in the arts, motion pictures or television.

O-1 Visa Qualifications

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that he or she has received sustained acclaim either nationally or internationally and is seeking entry into the United States to work in the same field for which the acclaim was achieved.

In the sciences, business, education and athletic fields, this means that the person can demonstrate that he or she is at the very top of the profession. In the arts, the person must have achieved distinction, which means he or she is a leading figure or person of renown in the field. Applicants for an O-1 visa for television or motion pictures must be able to show that they are leading or notable persons in the field.

Check out these O-1 Visa Benefits. 

How to Chose the Best O-1 Visa Lawyer

There are some key characteristics you should look for when choosing an O-1 lawyer. Below are some key points to consider:

  • Experience and Specialization – Look for a lawyer who specializes in O-1 visa cases and has a proven track record of success.
  • Education and Credentials – Check the lawyer’s credentials, such as their education, professional memberships, and certifications.
  • Communication – Your lawyer should be responsive to your questions and be able to keep you updated about your case.
  • Legal Fees – Look for lawyers that have transparent billing structures, and make sure you understand the costs involved. See O-1 Visa Fees.
  • Personal Approach – A good lawyer will offer a personalized approach and take the time to understand your unique situation and goals.

Learn all about how you can choose the best immigration lawyer for your needs.

Evidence Requirements for an O-1A Visa

Applicants for an O-1A visa must show that they have received a major award in their fields, such as a Nobel Prize. In the absence of such an award, an applicant must provide evidence of at least three of the following:

  • Awards or prizes for excellence in the field
  • Membership in related associations that require outstanding achievements to join
  • Published articles about the applicant and the applicant’s work in the field
  • Significant and original contributions to the field
  • Articles the applicant has authored that have been published in scholarly journals
  • A salary that indicates the applicant has extraordinary ability
  • Evidence that the applicant has been on a panel that judges others in the field or has done so individually
  • That the applicant has been employed by a distinguished organization or establishment in an essential capacity

Success Story

“A client of ours was a private pilot in South Africa seeking an O-1A visa during pandemic uncertainty. Typically with these visas, you need to demonstrate an extraordinary ability in the industry you are applying from. There is a very small pool of individuals who used our client for his services. He had previously tried filing with another firm and got denied. Our team was able to build a strong case around our client’s expertise. He had extensive training from one of the largest private jet operators in the world and was certified in ATPL. RFEs are usually sent out for these O-1A visas, and our client didn’t receive one. We were able to file everything under premium processing within a week, and his case was approved with a very quick turnaround rate.”-Jenny (Grandview Aviation Case)

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Our Experience with O-1 Visas 

Our lawyers have extensive experience with obtaining O-1 visas for professionals. We pride ourselves on outstanding service and exceptional client care. This is what our leading business immigration lawyer Shilpa Malik said about our O-1 visa services:

We embarked on a collaborative journey, meticulously gathering evidence and crafting a comprehensive petition that highlighted my client’s extraordinary abilities in their field. By effectively demonstrating their exceptional achievements and the significant impact they have made, we successfully navigated the O-1 visa process.

Our recent O-1 success story is about a C-level manager of a large media company who approached our office looking to apply for an O-IA for a CEO.  The case was approved within a few weeks of filing without a Request for Evidence.

Evidence Requirements for an O-1B Visa 

For an O-1B visa, applicants must have won a major award, such as an Oscar or Grammy, or show evidence of at least three of the following:

  • Evidence of past or future performances in a leading role or as a star participant in distinguished events or productions
  • National or International recognition for past achievements
  • Evidence of past or future performances as a lead or star participant for distinguished organizations or establishments
  • Evidence of significant commercial success or critical recognition
  • Recognition from critics, experts or government agencies for achievements in the field
  • Evidence of receiving compensation for work that demonstrates an extraordinary ability as compared to the compensation received by others in the field

Success Story

“A highly accomplished actor in the motion picture and television industry came to us seeking an O-1B visa. He’s from the United Kingdom and was traveling to Georgia to start filming for his new show. Within less than a month, our client’s O-1B visa was approved and he was able to start filming for his new show!” -Jenny–Miami Nights-Mark Rowley (Actor)  

Because there is a wide variety of possible items that could qualify as sufficient evidence for either visa subcategory, it is always advisable to seek the help of a qualified O-1 visa lawyer. Your lawyer will use his or her past experience with successful O-1 visas to help determine what constitutes as sufficient evidence of extraordinary ability.

O-1 Visa Process

To receive an O-1 visa, an employer must file Form I-129 along with a written advisory opinion from an industry peer group or labor union. If an O-1 Visa is sought for someone in motion pictures or television a written advisory opinion must be obtained from a management organization and an appropriate labor union. A copy of the contract between the employer and the O-1 visa beneficiary must be filed. If the contract is oral, a summation of the terms must be filed.

Finally, an itinerary must be filed including an explanation of the nature of events the visa beneficiary will participate in and their beginning and ending dates. Once your O-1 visa lawyers file all the information and documents, USCIS will make a decision on the application. Due to the O-1 visa processing time, it is important for everything to be filed at least 45 days before entry into the United States is sought.

A qualified O-1 visa attorney can help make sure that all of your documents and evidence are submitted according to the regulations and deadlines.

O-1 Processing Time

On average, the O-1 processing time is faster than that of other visas like the H-1B visa. However, you should still allot three to four months for the application to process. Because the I-129 petition’s processing time is dependent on the service center that is responsible for processing it, determining the exact amount of time to expect can be difficult.

Premium Processing

If you are pressed for time and have a need to expedite your O-1 processing time, then opting for the USCIS premium processing service may be a good option. This feature, for a fee of $2,500, will obligate the USCIS to process your petition in 15 calendar days or less. If it is not processed in this amount of time, the USCIS will refund your fee.

However, many people believe that premium processing will help increase your chances of being approved or even guarantee approval. This has never been the case. Premium processing only speeds up the time it takes the USCIS to come to a decision about your petition.

Make sure that you consult with your O-1 visa attorney before opting for premium processing to learn if this is an option that is appropriate for your situation.

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O-1 Visa Change of Status

In some cases, an individual on O-1 visa status may seek a change of status (COS) to another non-immigrant status or even permanent residency. This is because the O-1 visa classification is considered to have “dual intent”, meaning that, unlike other work visas like TN and J-1, you are able to pursue your green card while on O-1 status.  If you are in the U.S. and wish to change your status you must first meet the following criteria:

  • Been admitted into the country on a non-immigrant status (like O-1)
  • Have not committed a crime or any other act that would cause them to be ineligible for immigrant benefits
  • There cannot be any outstanding factors that would require them to leave the country prior to changing classifications
  • Has to request a change of status application prior to the expiration date of the I-94

Learn about Maintaining O-1 Visa Status. 

Benefits of the O-1 Visa over H-1B Visas and Other Work Visas

Since the H-1B visa and O-1 have many of the same eligibility requirements, individuals often want to know the advantages of one over the other. There are three distinct advantages to choosing an O-1 visa over an H-1B. The first advantage is that there’s no annual

The first advantage is that there’s no annual quota imposed on the H-1B. Each year, the H-1B is limited to 65,000 in the regular cap and an additional 20,000 in the master’s exemption. On the other hand, the O-1 has no annual quota and is available to anyone who fits the qualifications.

The second advantage is the ability to extend your O-1 visa in one-year increments after the initial three-year granting period. These extensions can be granted indefinitely as long as the visa holder maintains his or her nonimmigrant status and can provide proof that an extended stay in the U.S. is necessary for the completion of the work that initially brought the beneficiary to the country.

Check out this guide for more information on O-1 visa extension. The H-1B is also granted for three years initially. After that, there is an option to extend it for two years and possibly one for extension (although that’s not guaranteed).

Individuals who are on a J-1 Exchange Visitor status typically have to return home for two years as part of the residency requirement before filing for an H visa, L visa or Lawful Permanent Resident status. Those who elect for the O-1 option may be able to return to the U.S. without completing the two-year foreign residency requirement.

Learn about the O-1 Visa Interview.

O-1 Visa Sponsor

There are typically two types of O-1 visa sponsors–an agent and an employer. An employer, as you may assume, is a company or person that the applicant will be working or providing services to. An agent, on the other hand, is hired in order to represent the applicant’s skills and find them suitable work.

There are three important components a sponsor will need to provide on behalf of the applicant and they are as follows:

  • Information such as name, address, tax ID number, gross income, net income, number of employees, etc.
  • A signed petition request work status for the individual
  • Good faith to work with them in the manner suggested.

Alternatives to O-1 Green Card

If you do not meet the qualifications for an O-1 Green Card or apply for one and are denied, the good news is that you have other options.

  • EB-1 Visa: This visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, as well as outstanding professors or researchers, and multinational executives or managers. Learn about O-1 Visa vs EB-1 Green Card. 
  • EB-2 Visa: This visa is for individuals with an advanced degree (beyond a U.S. bachelor’s degree) or who have significant competence in art, business, or science. Must also be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Certification Process.
  • EB-3 Visa: This visa is for skilled, professional, or “unskilled” workers. The EB-3 Green Card has less strict qualifying requirements, but there are more eligible applicants compared to EB-1 and EB-2 categories.
  • H-1B Visa: This visa is for skilled professionals with at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as fields such as computer science, architecture, medicine, dentistry, engineering, accounting, etc. There are many benefits to having this type of visa including the fact that it’s dual intent, has a 3-year initial stay which can be extended, permits you to bring spouse/children and more.
  • L-1 Visa: This visa allows multinational companies to transfer executives, managers, and specialized knowledge employees to their US offices. This visa has two subcategories- the L-1A for managers and executives, and the L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge.
  • TN Visa: This visa is for Canadian and Mexican citizens who are seeking temporary employment in the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

How VisaNation Law Group’s O-1 Visa Lawyers Can Help

  • VisaNation Law Group’s O-1 visa lawyers can help you go from an O-1 visa to green card status if you decide to reside permanently in the United States. Their attorneys understand the required documentation necessary to prove extraordinary ability and can help you avoid unnecessary obstacles throughout the application prices.
  • VisaNation Law Group’s immigration Lawyers specialize in employment-based green cards and can advise you on other work visa options if an O-1 visa is not suitable in your situation.
  • If you need a person of extraordinary ability to stay in the United States for longer than the original O-1 visa, they can help with getting O-1 visa extensions. VisaNation Law Group’s O-1 lawyers can assist with getting O-2 visas for essential assistants and visas for the dependents of O-1 visa beneficiaries.
  • VisaNation Law Group’s O-1 visa lawyers offer extensive immigration consultation to persons interested in O-1 and other work visas.