O-1 Foreign Nationals
of Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 Visa is for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture or television industry to enter the US for temporary periods of time. The immigration service broadly interprets this visa category to encompass “any field of endeavor” including craftsmen and lecturers. To be considered an individual of extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics, you must prove that you possess a “level of expertise indicating that [you are] one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor; for the arts, you must show “a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered”; and for the motion picture or TV industry, you must show “a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered.”

If approved, you can only work in the US in that area of expertise. Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may join you in the US under O-3 status. While they may not work while in the US, family members are allowed to attend school.

The O-1 Visa must be petitioned by a US employer, US agent or foreign employer through a US agent. Your petitioner should complete Form I-129 with the USCIS. The form should be completed at least six months before you plan to begin working. The petition must include various documents and supporting letters from others in the field to prove that you meet the applicable definiton of extraordinary as defined above.