Are you extraordinary? FAQs for O-1 Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Visa

  StockSnap.  Pixabay

StockSnap. Pixabay

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. 

We have compiled below some frequently asked questions from our clients and readers about this visa. We will continue to update this list accordingly.

  • What is the O-1 visa?

The O-1 visa is a temporary visa for applicants who can demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

  • What are the different types in the O-1 visa classification?

There are two types of O-1 visa, depending on the type of industry or occupation:

  1. O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
  2. O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
  • How does the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) define extraordinary ability?

In the fields of science, education, business or athletics, extraordinary ability means a level of expertise indicating that the applicant is one of a small number of people who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. 

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction is a high level of achievement in the field shown by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that the applicant is prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

In the motion picture or television industry, the applicant must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered, that the applicant is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

In all cases, the word "extraordinary ability" is a legal term of art. The USCIS requires specific types of evidence to show that you meet its standard. You may very well be extraordinary even if you don't think you are. 

  • Can I bring my family with me? Are they authorized to work or go to school?

Yes. Spouses and children under the age of 21 may accompany or follow-to-join the O-1 visa holder and are classified as O-3 nonimmigrant visa holders. These family members will be subject to the same period of admission and limitations as the principal applicant. However, they may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may go to school either full-time or part-time.

  • Can I bring my staff to the United States with me?

Yes. O-1 visa holders may bring their staff members who will be eligible for an O-2 visa, reserved for essential staff. In order to accompany an O-1A principal to assist in a specific event or performance, the individual must be an integral part of the principal's activity. For example, an O-1A athlete may bring their coach or trainer if they are integral to the athlete's success. 

For an O-1B, the O-2 applicant’s assistance must be essential to the completion of the principal’s production. The O-2 applicant has to have critical skills and experience with the principal that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the principal. For example, an O-1B opera singer may bring their longtime voice coach to help them successfully prepare for a performance.

  • How long is the duration of the O-1 visa?

The visa can be granted for a maximum of three years. USCIS may grant extensions of up to 1-year increments depending on the time it determines necessary to accomplish the initial event or activity. 

  • Can I work for multiple employers under the O-1 visa?

It depends on how the O-1 petition is structured. What is great about O-1 visas is that they enable agents to act as your petitioners. This is especially common for O-1B petitions in the arts where an artist or musician may have multiple events or gigs under different employers. So long as someone has an agent that is can act on behalf of the other employers, this type of work arrangements may be possible. For O-1A petitions in the Sciences, Education, Athletics, and Business, an agent structure is rare and therefore these petitions are usually just for one employer. However, you may have multiple concurrent O-1 petitions if you have several employers seeking to employ during the same time period. 

  • Can an O-1 visa lead to a green card?

No. An O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, which means that it is a temporary visa which allows the applicant to work in the United States in the area of extraordinary ability. However, there is an equivalent immigrant visa, called an EB-1, which provides for a path to a green card. The criteria for an EB-1 differs slightly from the O-1 and the standard is generally higher. 

If you would like information about the O-1 visa process, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.


Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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