If you’re looking for a temporary, non-immigrant visa where you can work in the U.S., you might qualify for an O visa if you can show you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, the arts, motion pictures or the television industry. This type of visa requires a job offer from a U.S. employer.

People can show they have the requisite extraordinary ability for an O-1 visa by showing evidence of sustained national or international acclaim. This means:

  • For the fields of science, education, business or athletics (O-1A visa), evidence that you are one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field
  • In the arts (O-1B visa), a high level of achievement in the field, as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts
  • For the motion picture industry (O-1B visa), a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field

There are also O-2 visas available for those who assist O-1 visa holders. These people must be an integral part of the O-1 visa holder’s performance and must have critical skills and experience that are not of a general nature. Their continuing participation must be essential to the successful completion of the O-1 visa holder’s production.

Additionally, spouses and children (under 21) of O-1 and O-2 visa holders may be eligible for O-3 visas. These are also non-immigrant visas that are subject to the same rules and limitations as the O-1 and O-2 visas. O-3 visa holders do not have work authorization but can take part in full- or part-time study.

Two-part process for application

As we mentioned, an O-1 visa requires a job offer from a U.S. employer. Your employer will need to file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, no earlier than one year before your job will begin. (They should file at least 45 days before your job will begin.)

Along with that form, your employer may need to present a written advisory opinion from a person with expertise in your field. They must also file a copy of your contract, itinerary and other evidence demonstrating your eligibility for an O-1 or O-2 visa.

Once the petition is approved, the second step is to apply for your visa through a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Even though it will be your employer who files the initial forms, an immigration attorney can help develop the application. Contact Yew Immigration Law Group for assistance.