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O visas for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement

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An O visa is a non-immigrant temporary visa granted to individuals who possess extraordinary talents or achievements. Generally, the individual must be nationally or internationally recognized for their talents.

The visa is granted for up to three years, with the possibility for unlimited one year extensions. Unlike other visa categories, the O visa requires employer sponsorship or a job offer.

Visa classification levels

There are different classifications of the O visa, depending on the individual’s skills and achievements. Additionally, the various classifications include visas for the family members and assistants of the primary visa holder.

  • O-1A: A visa for individuals with an extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics.
  • O-1B: A visa for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or great achievement in the motion picture or television industry.
  • O-2: A visa for individuals who will accompany an O-1 visa holder to assist. The assistance needs to be an integral part of the O-1A visa holder’s activity or the O-1B visa holder’s production. The duties performed by an O-2 visa holder need to greatly exceed what could be performed by a U.S. worker, generally as a result of the O-2 applicant’s skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder.
  • O-3: Visas for the spouse and/or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.

O visa eligibility criteria

The visas are granted to talented individuals to further develop their ability. For O-1 applicants, the individual must have risen to the top of their field and demonstrated a level of expertise. In the arts, extraordinary ability is defined as gaining distinction and renown. An applicant attempting to qualify for a visa in the television or motion picture industry must have achieved notoriety and acclaim in addition to possessing great skill in from of the camera.

A detailed listing of evidentiary criteria for O_1 visas can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. Individuals need to meet three or more requirements for their visa classification. In certain cases, an individual may not meet the exact requirements listed, but past achievements can equalize evidentiary criteria.