*The information contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not intended for legal advice. You must consult with an attorney to obtain specific, comprehensive legal advice. Government processing times may change at any time. For current USCIS processing times contact USCIS directly.

The O-1 visa is a temporary non immigrant work visa for individuals who posses "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. The extraordinary ability must have been demonstrated by “sustained national or international acclaim.”  The requirement has been interpreted broadly by the Service to include "any field of endeavor", including chefs, photographer, craftsmens and  lecturers. 

The O visa is separated into two different categories and has different criteria and requirements depending on the type of extraordinary ability and work to be performed.

O-1A Visa

The O-1A visa is intended for those individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics ( not including those working in the arts, motion pictures or television industry.)

O-2B Visa

The O-1B visa is for those individuals who will work in the arts, motion picture or television industry who can show a demonstrated record of distinction in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

Dual Intent

O Visa recognizes "dual intent". There is nor foreign residence requirement but must have temporary intent to remain. O visa holders may apply for permanent residence without jeopardizing his status.


Applicant must demonstrate that he possess extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, education, athletics, or the motion picture or television industry.  Applicant must show that he has achieved sustained or international acclaim.  Applicant must be coming to the United States to perform temporary services for a U.S. employer relating to an event or events.

Extraordinary Ability

Extraordinary ability in the science, education, business and Athletics means a level of expertise showing that the applicant is one  of a small percentage who have arisen to the very top of his field.  

Extraordinary ability in the arts means "distinction". A high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.

O-1 visa holders must be entering the United States to perform temporary services for an American employer or an agent of an international employer.  You must be entering the United States to participate in a specific event or events which require your expertise. The petition may not be filed more than six months before the services are needed.


The O-1 visa petition requires specific evidence of the qualifications and international recognition of your extraordinary ability. 

A. In the science, education, business and athletics:  Applicant may prove sustained national or international acclaim by receipt of a major internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize.  Applicant can also document at least three of the following:

  • Internationally or nationally recognized prizes or awards;
  • Published material about your work;
  • Membership in an association that requires members to have outstanding achievement;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles published in any type of major media or professional journals;
  • High salary or any other type of compensation;
  • Participation on a panel, or as a judge for other people’s works;
  • Evidence of past employment for organizations or establishments that have a high reputation.

B. Distinction in the Arts: Applicant must prove prominence in the field by being nominated for or the recipient of a significant international or national award or prize such as an Academy Award. Applicant may document at least three of the following:

  • Lead in production having a distinguished reputation.
  • Critical reviews in major newspapers or trade journals.
  • Lead for organizations that has a distinguish reputation.
  • Record of major commercial  or critically acclaimed successes.
  • Significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field.
  • Has commanded or will command a high salary.

 C. Extraordinary Achievement in Motion Picture or TV Industry: Applicant needs to show that he has received or been nominated for significant national or international awards such as Emmy, Grammy or similar or three of the following:

  • Performed or will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation  as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publication, contracts or endorsement.
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements.
  • Performed or will perform in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguish reputation.
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaim successes.
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts on the field
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field

Applicant may submit comparable evidence in order to establish your eligibility.


You will also need to provide a contract between you and your employer that describes the terms and conditions of services to be performed, or a summary of the terms of an oral agreement.  For specific events, you should provide a specific itinerary showing the schedule and ending date of events.

Length of Stay and Renewals of O-1 Visa

An O-1 visa may be granted for up to three years.  O-1 visa status may be renewed in one year increments, or until the project is finished.


Applicant cannot apply for an O visa on his own behalf.  Generally, the employer must petition for the status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Applicant can also file through a U.S. agent.  This process is often used when you will work for multiple employers in the United States.  Once the petition is approved, you must then apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Foreign nationals who are accompanying an O-1 visa holder and assisting in the performance may be able to obtain an O-2 visa.  To qualify for an O-2 visa, the assistant must meet the following requirements: 

  • Be an integral part of the actual performance;

  • Have critical skills and experience that cannot be performed by others;

In television and motion pictures, have a long-standing working relationship with the O-1 alien.  

The petition must include evidence to establish the applicant’s essential role, and that they have skills and experience not possessed by an immediately available US worker.


Spouses and children of an O-1 visa holder are eligible for admission to the United States in O-3 status.  Dependents need to show proof of the family relationship. Dependents may not engage in employment, but may attend school or college.


O-1 Visa: Individuals of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement.