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An overview of the O-1 visa standard and its requirements

There are several categories of business visas that foreign nationals may apply for if they are planning on traveling to the United States for temporary employment. Each visa category has its requirements- it is essential to carefully review the purpose of the intended stay to determine which visa is most appropriate.

Below is a brief outline of what foreign nationals need to qualify for an O-1 visa, one of the several visa categories available to them.

What is "extraordinary ability", and what is required to show that one is extraordinary?

The O-1 visa category is for "individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement" in their field.

To obtain an O-1 visa, a foreign national must establish that they have risen to the top of their field- in any one of the following fields:

  • Science
  • Education
  • Business
  • Athletics
  • Arts

Individuals with "extraordinary ability" are celebrities, Olympic athletes or television performers. The O-1 visa is available to anyone who has risen to the top of one the above enumerated fields ad who is able to show that they have national or international acclaim in that field.

As such, successful business owners, notable scientists and professors are also able to apply for an O-1 visa. The term extraordinary does not mean the individual has to be the best in their field, it means that they have to demonstrate that their achievements in their field place them among one of the very best nationally or internationally, and that they have been recognized for their achievements. 

The regulations provide certain criteria to meet in order to demonstrate extraordinary ability, and an applicant must fulfill at least 3 of the criteria to obtain an approval:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prices or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements as judged by national or international experts
  • Published material about the alien in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the field or an allied field
  • Original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that the alien has performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have distinguished reputations
  • Evidence that the alien has commanded a high salary or other high remuneration for services.

The O-1 visa also requires an advisory opinion or consultation.

The advisory opinion is a written statement from a peer group or consulting entity that confirms an O-1 applicant’s extraordinary ability. 

It is critical to carefully and thoroughly gather the evidence to meet the legal standard before presenting the application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to ensure a successful outcome.

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