California Immigration Lawyer Blog
Published on:

O-1 visa – What do I need to qualify

When analyzing options for non-immigrants, we tend to think of other visas before thinking of an O-1. Yet, it remains a viable alternative. In fact, in 2009 (the latest year in which statistics are available), 58,566 people entered on O visas. (See page 4, Nonimmigrant Admission to the United States, 2009.) That is a large group of extraordinary people.

An O-1 visa is a visa for an individual who possesses 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.

This post will be the first of many posts on O-1 visas. In this post, I will describe the evidentiary requirements for obtaining an O-1 visa.


To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must 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.

Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.

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

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

You may find the evidentiary requirements in 8 C.F.R. Section 212(o)(3)

For an individual of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics . An individual of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of:

(A) Receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize; or
(B) At least three of the following forms of documentation:

( 1 ) Documentation of the individual’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;

( 2 ) Documentation of the individual’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;

( 3 ) Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the individual, relating to the individual’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;

( 4 ) Evidence of the individual’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought;

( 5 ) Evidence of the individual’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;

( 6 ) Evidence of the individual’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;

( 7 ) Evidence that the individual has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;

( 8 ) Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

(C) If the criteria in the previous paragraph do not readily apply to the individual’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary ability in the field of arts, the individual must be recognized as being prominent in his or her field of endeavor as demonstrated by the following:

(A) Evidence that the individual has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award; or
(B) At least three of the following forms of documentation:

( 1 ) Evidence that the individual has performed, and 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, publications contracts, or endorsements;

( 2 ) Evidence that the individual has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;

( 3 ) Evidence that the individual has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;

( 4 ) Evidence that the individual has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;

( 5 ) Evidence that the individual has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements; or

( 6 ) Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence; or

(C) If the criteria in the previous paragraph do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the employer may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, the individual must be recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement as evidenced by the following:

(A) Evidence that the individual has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award; or
(B) At least three of the following forms of documentation:

( 1 ) Evidence that the individual has performed, and 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, publications contracts, or endorsements;

( 2 ) Evidence that the individual has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;

( 3 ) Evidence that the individual has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;

( 4 ) Evidence that the individual has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;

( 5 ) Evidence that the individual has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements; or

( 6 ) Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

In my next post, I will describe who may file an O-1 Visa petition.

Posted in: O-1
Published on:
Updated:

Comments are closed.