O-1 Visas

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Guide To O-1 Visas

If you’re like many people who want to come to the United States, you know that there are several possible pathways you can take – and one of them is the O-1 visa.

But what is an O-1 visa, how can you qualify for it, and what happens if the U.S. government issues one to you? This complete guide to O-1 visas tells you everything you need to know.

What is an O-1 Visa?

There are two types of O-1 nonimmigrant visas: O-1A and O-1B. The application process is the same for both, although the proof you must furnish to show your eligibility will be a bit different.

Both are short-term employment visas. If you have an O visa, you can work legally in the United States for the person or entity sponsoring your petition. Generally, O visas can be issued very quickly, and they’re issued for the length of time necessary for a particular event.

O-1A Visas

O-1A visas are for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry).

O-1B Visas

O-1B visas are for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.

O-1 Visas

What kind of work visas are available in the United States?

Popular work visas in the U.S. include:

Learn more about work visas in the USA »

Who Qualifies for an O-1 Visa?

O-1 VisaNot everyone qualifies for an O-1 visa. In fact, these types of visas are only available to people who have both a job offer in the United States and have proven an extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.

The recipient of an O-1 visa must have received national or international acclaim in a particular field. If the person works in motion pictures or television productions, he or she must have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.

For example, some or all of the members of the cast of a widely acclaimed television series may be eligible for O visas if the producers intend to film on-location in the United States. Likewise, some or all of the members of popular international bands may qualify for these types of visas if they’re going on tour in the U.S. It’s important to note, though, that O-1 visas can only be given to people on the basis of individual qualifications; simply being part of the cast or a member of a band isn’t enough.

In the case of an O-1A visa – those that are available to individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry) – an “event” is loosely interpreted to mean an “engagement.” Events can include ongoing research projects for private companies, universities or government entities, for example.

Proving Extraordinary Ability

In order to prove extraordinary ability – enough that you qualify for an O-1 visa – you must have either won or earned a major internationally recognized award (such as an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize) or have accomplished at least three of the following goals:

  • Received a nationally (in the U.S.) recognized prize or award
  • Been the subject of published material in professional or major trade publications, or in major media
  • Attained membership in an association (or multiple associations) that require outstanding achievements in a particular field of expertise
  • Made an original scientific, scholarly or business-related contribution of major significance in your field
  • Participated as a judge of the work of others in your field
  • Authored scholarly articles in professional journals or major media
  • Been previously employed in a critical or essential capacity by an organization with a “distinguished reputation”
  • Command – or have commanded in the past – a high salary or other outstanding remuneration for your services

Can Your Family Come With You if You Have This Type of Visa?

In many cases, immediate family members – spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 – can come with you when you come to the U.S. to work with an O-1 visa. However, they won’t come under the same type of visa; they’ll use the O-3 nonimmigrant visa. Your spouse and children will be subject to the same period of admission that you are subject to. Spouses and children cannot work while in the U.S. on an O-3 visa, but they can participate in full- or part-time study while in the United States.

U.S. on an O-3 visa, but they can participate in full- or part-time study while in the United States.

How Do You Apply for an O-1 Visa?

Your employer or agent should apply for an O-1 visa (A or B) on your behalf. The same person should provide the required evidence that shows you are a person of extraordinary ability. The evidence should establish your critical skills, experience and essentiality of your visit. For example, if you’re coming to the U.S. to work on a television show or movie, the evidence should show that significant production has taken place outside the U.S. and will continue to take place inside the U.S. – and that your continuing participation is essential to the project’s successful completion.

Wouldn’t the Application Process Be Easier if You Worked With a Houston or Dallas Immigration Attorney?

For most people, the application process for an O-1A or O-1B visa is much simpler when working with a Houston or Dallas immigration attorney. Your attorney can fill out and file the paperwork on your behalf, saving you the time and effort required to ensure you’re doing everything properly under U.S. immigration law.

How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. on an O-1 Visa?

You can generally stay in the U.S. on an O-1A or O-1B visa for as long as necessary to complete your work. For example, if you’re filming a movie that will take a year to complete, USCIS can grant you a visa that allows you to stay that long. You can also extend in unlimited one-year increments, which is particularly helpful for those doing research projects and people filming television series.

Common Questions About O-1 Visas

These are some of the most common questions we answer about O-1 visas. If you don’t see your question listed here, or if an answer you read here leads to further questions, please call our office to talk to an experienced professional. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and explain your options if you qualify for an O-1 visa.

What Happens if You Change Employers? Can You Change Employers if You Have an O-1 Visa?

It is possible to change employers if you’re in the United States on an O-1 visa. However, your new employer must file the appropriate paperwork with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

What is a Material Change in Terms and Conditions of Employment?

A material change – other than the addition of more performances – in the terms and conditions of your employment or of your eligibility, your employer has to file an amended Form I-129 on your behalf. There are special rules for athletes, which your Texas immigration attorney can explain to you.

Who Has to Pay for Your Return Transportation if You’re in the U.S. on an O-1 Visa?

If your employer terminates your employment for any reason (aside from your voluntary resignation), your employer must pay for the reasonable cost of return transportation to your last residence before you came to the United States.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About an O-1 Visa?

If you work for an employer that needs to bring in a person of extraordinary ability, or if you’re a talent agent, we may be able to help you get the O-1 visas you need. Call our office today to talk about your options with an experienced professional.