If you possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, you may be eligible for a nonimmigrant O-1 Visa that will let you work in your area of expertise.
Is My Field Eligible for an O-1 Visa?
The O-1 Visa encompasses many fields, including:
Science and education: scientists, researchers, professors, etc.
Business: executives, entrepreneurs, etc.
Sports: athletes, coaches, trainers, nutritionists, etc.
Modeling and Fashion Industry: models, makeup artists, photographers, designers, etc.
Fine Arts and Visual Arts: painting, photography, sculpting, etc.
Performing arts: theatre actors and actresses, directors, set designers, lighting designers, choreographers, etc.
Film and TV industry: actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters producers, cinematographers, stuntmen, composers, etc.
Music: singers, band members, producers, songwriters, etc.
Culinary Arts: chefs, culinary artists, etc.
Other fields involving creative activities
What Do I Need To Show?
If you work in one of the eligible fields, you also need to show that you have extraordinary ability in your field, generally with evidence of recognition or awards. If you have received a major, internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize, Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award, that should be enough proof.
If you don’t have a major award, you may still be eligible based on the other forms of proof. The more recognized and reputable the award or recognition is, the easier it will be to qualify for an O-1. However, having a combination of many different types of proof of extraordinary abilities may also be enough to qualify for an O-1. For example, if you are applying for:
O-1 Visa for models, you can show proof of:
- Beauty Contest Awards
- Professional awards
- Publication of your photos in magazines
- Articles written about you and your work in mass media
- Contracts with agencies
- Letters of recommendations from clients and agencies
O-1 Visa for producers, directors, actors or other professionals in the Film and TV Industry, you can show proof of:
- Professional awards for your work and awards for projects you worked on
- Leading or significant roles in distinguished projects
- A record of major commercial and/or critically acclaimed successes
- Articles and interviews about you in mass media
- Letters of recommendations from people who have global or national recognition in your profession
- Letters from professional communities about your extraordinary work
- Evidence of a high salary relative to your field of work
O-1 Visa for researchers, scientists, professors or other professionals in the science and education fields, you can show proof of:
- Awards for your research
- Membership in an elite group that requires outstanding achievements
- Participation as a judge (individually or on a panel) of the work of others in your field
- Patents for inventions
- Articles you’ve published in journals and magazines
- Articles and interviews about your or your work in mass media
- Books written about you
- Grants you have received for your work
- Letters of recommendations from world-renowned professionals in your field
O-1 Visa for athletes, you can show proof of:
- Awards you’ve received based on your participation
- Records and achievements you’ve accomplished
- Articles and interviews about you and your achievements in mass media
These are just some examples of the supporting documents you will need to prove your extraordinary abilities and to qualify for an O-1 visa. It is not a definitive list of proof and you do not need to show everything on each list to qualify. Since every individual is different, the amount and types of proof you need to show will vary.
Do I need a Sponsor?
You will need an employer to sponsor you for your O-1 Visa petition. For self-employed individuals, qualified agents can sponsor your petition for an O-1 Visa, such as modeling agencies, talent agencies, sports agencies, etc.
O-1 Visa versus H1-B Visa
If you qualify for an O-1 Visa, you may also qualify for an H-1B Visa, which is another visa with work authorization, but there are certain benefits when you compare an H1-B Visa with an O-1 Visa:
1. You can apply for O-1 Visa any time: H1-B Visa applications can only be filed in April and you can only start working in October IF you are lucky enough to get selected. O-1 Visas have no such requirement and you can apply for it any time and start working once approved.
2. No annual cap on O-1 Visas: H1-B Visas are limited each year to 60,000 and selection is done through a lottery. O-1 Visas have no such limit.
3. No labor condition application (“LCA”) is required for O-1 Visas: H1-B Visas require the employer submit an LCA as part of the application process and errors with the LCA could affect your eligibility. With O-1 Visas, there is no such requirement.
4. No limit on length of stay for O-1 Visas: H1-B Visas are generally limited to six years total. O-1 Visas can be renewed unlimited amount of times.
5. Subsequent Green Card process is easier: It is much easier for an O-1 Visa Holder to qualify for and apply for a Green Card than it is for an H1-B Visa Holder. There are no requirements for people with extraordinary abilities to have a sponsor or obtain a Labor Certification (also known as PERM) in order to apply for a Green Card.
O-2 Visa for assistants
If your profession requires you to have an assistant who is an integral part of your work, you can apply for an O-2 Visa for such person to come to the United States with you and assist you with the performance of your job.
O-3 Visas for family members
Your spouse and children can also come with you to the U.S. with an O-3 Visa.
Contact Los Angeles Immigration Center for More Information
An O-1 Visa is a great option if you would like to come to the U.S. temporarily, but it does require proof that you have extraordinary ability, which can be very complicated. You may also qualify to apply for a Green Card right away or after you come to the U.S. on the O-1 Visa. If you believe that you have extraordinary abilities in your field of endeavor and would like to apply for an O-1 Visa or a Green Card, it is best to contact the Los Angeles Immigration Center to discuss your case.
To schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney, please call (310) 933-4455 or fill out our online form with a brief description of your situation.