For those individuals with extraordinary talent or ability, the O visa and specifically the O-1 category for the US are an excellent option. This skill must be demonstrated in the field of arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. The O visa also applies in the film or television industry, having achieved national or international recognized achievements.
In this article we are going to explain what an O visa is in the US, answering everything you should know in 2021. Being immigration attorneys in Los Angeles for more than 40 years, we are at your disposal to answer any questions.
Non-immigrant O visa categories
- O-1A : Individuals with extraordinary abilities in education, science, business or athletics. Excludes individuals from the arts, movies, or television industry.
- O-1B : Individuals with extraordinary achievements in the film, television or arts industry.
- O-2 : Companions of the artist or athlete who holds the O-1 visa for a specific event or presentation. O-2 support for O-1B must be “essential” for product completion. The O-2 has critical experiences and skills that cannot be easily executed by an American worker. Therefore they are essential for the success of the O-1.
- O-3 : Spouses or children of non-immigrants on the O-1 and O-2 visa.
Examples of professions suitable for O type visas
It is somewhat common to confuse this visa thinking that it is mainly for artists. It actually encompasses many more professions. Here is a brief example of these:
- Brand Directors.
- Advertising Directors.
- Hair Stylists.
- Makeup artists.
- Painters and others.
O visa eligibility
For the O-1 visa:
- The beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary skills in a sustained manner nationally and internationally.
- Must come to the US to continue working in their area of extraordinary ability.
- Extraordinary ability in education, science, business or athletics means having achieved a level of specialty. That is, being part of the small percentage of people in the highest sphere of their ability.
For the O-2 visa:
In the arts:
- Possessing extraordinary ability in the arts means having distinction.
- This distinction means attaining a higher degree of skill above the ordinary.
- Prominent recognition and being well regarded and outstanding in the field of arts.
For the film or television industry:
- You must demonstrate extraordinary achievement proven by superior skill and recognition.
- The person is recognized as remarkable, extraordinary or outstanding in the field of movies and / or television.
How do I apply for an O-1A visa?
The petitioner must file Form I-129 in the USCIS office listed in the instructions.
This request cannot be submitted more than a year before the date you need to be admitted and serve in the US. To avoid delays, you must file the petition 45 days before the date of employment.
Along with the form you must present supporting documentation that is cited below.
Supporting documentation to apply for the O-1A visa
A written consultation by a peer group that includes work organizations or group designees with a specialty in the skill area.
If the O-1 visa petition is for a person with extraordinary achievements in film or television, it must come from a union or organization with experience and expertise in the field.
If the petition includes a distinctive mark, the document must be sent to USCIS for verification.
There are exceptions to the consultation requirements that you can solve in a call or email to our lawyers so we can review your specific case.
Copy of the contract between the beneficiary and the petitioner
USCIS will also accept a verbal contract if it shows the sum of elements of the agreement. This evidence may include email messages, a summary of the terms, or any other evidence of the verbal agreement showing:
- The offer by the employer.
- Acceptance by the employee.
- Explanation of the nature of activities or events.
- Start and end date.
- Copy of the itinerary or activities.
- Demonstration by the petitioner that there will be events or activities on the requested dates.
An American agent can act in three different ways.
Agent doing the work of an employer
The Form I-129 petition for these cases must include:
- The contractual agreement between the beneficiary and the agent specifying the offered salary and other conditions of employment. A contract is not required between the beneficiary and the entities that will ultimately use the beneficiary’s services.
- If the foreigner must work in more than one locality, it is necessary to include the itinerary with the localities and dates of the work. There are no exceptions to this rule although USCIS is flexible on the ammount of detail that must be included. What is mentioned at the beginning of the point is the minimum data you must submit.
Multiple Employer Agent
This must demonstrate that you are authorized to act as an agent for other employers.
Agents filing petitions using Form I-129 must include the petition:
- Supporting documentation that includes the complete itinerary, dates, event name and addresses of current employers. Also the names, addresses of the establishments, localities and premises where the service will be provided.
- Contracts between the beneficiary and current employers. and
- Explanation of terms and conditions of employment with the required documentation.
As soon as USCIS approves the application, the beneficiary can file another one for the visa at a US consulate or embassy.
Agent acting for foreign employers
Agents in these cases must present minimal document evidence for O-1 visa petitions. This includes:
- Summary of the terms of the oral agreement or a copy of any written contract between the foreign employer and the beneficiary.
- Explanation of the nature of the activities or events together with the start and end date and a copy of the itinerary.
- Advisory opinions of the appropriate advisory entity or entities.
If you have questions about the agents related to the O visa, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to assist you.
How much does an O-1 visa cost?
The cost of the application for the O-1 visa is $ 190. However, this cost is variable because in addition to the application fee, there may be additional ones depending on your country of residence.
Once you have made the payment, be sure to keep the receipt since this is proof of evidence.
Elements and criteria of evidence for an O-1A
In this case it would be worth the evidence that the beneficiary has received an important, internationally recognized award. For example, a Nobel Prize or evidence of at least three of the following:
- To have been awarded in his field of specialization with nationally or internationally recognized awards.
- Being a member of associations of the field for which you are seeking classification and that require outstanding achievements evaluated by international experts.
- Possess a high salary or other remuneration for services verified in contracts or other reliable evidence.
- Have material published in important publications, industry or professional about the petitioner and the work he does for the area that applies.
- Original scholastic and scientific contributions related to business, with great importance in the field.
- Participation as a labor judge in a panel or individually in the specialized field or in one related to the one you choose to classify for.
- Employment in an essential or critical capacity for reputable establishments and organizations.
- Being the author of scholastic articles in professional publications or other main media in the specialized area for which classification is sought.
If these standards do not apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may present comparable evidence to demonstrate eligibility.
Elements and criteria of evidence for an O-1B
Here it serves to have been nominated for a national or international award of importance. For example, an Emmy or a Grammy among others. Also evidence of at least three of the following elements:
- To have acted or to act in the future as a prominent and leading figure in productions or events of distinguished reputation. Also evidenced in reviews, announcements, presentations or contracts among others.
- Having achieved national and international recognition as evidenced by critical reviews or published material about the beneficiary in different media or testimonials.
- Titles, rankings, or positioning that demonstrate a record of business success or popular acclaim in the professional field that you apply.
- Have received significant recognition for their achievements from critics, organizations, government agencies or other recognized experts in the beneficiary’s professional field. Also have testimonies that indicate authorship and knowledge of the same.
- You receive a high salary or other special compensation compared to others in the professional field evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.
If these standards do not apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may present comparable evidence to demonstrate eligibility.
NOTE: This exception does not apply to the film and / or television industry.
Processing of O-2 visa applications
The petitioner must submit an O-2 Visa application for USCIS using form I-129. This will be done through the offices indicated in the form’s instructions.
The O-2 Nonimmigrant category foreigner must petition in conjunction with the request for services for the O-1 athlete or artist foreigner. You cannot file the application one year before the start date of employment abroad. Even so, and in order to avoid delays, it is advisable to present it 45 days before that date.
Along with form I-129, the petitioner must submit the following information:
For individuals with extraordinary achievements in sports or the arts: Consultation must come from an appropriate labor union.
For individuals with extraordinary achievements in the film or television industry the consultation should come from a labor and management organization with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of expertise.
Again in this category there are exceptions to this consultation requirement where the decision can be based on evidence of your record rather than the organization of work.
Elements of evidence for the O-2 visa
The evidence submitted must demonstrate that the person is indispensable and necessary for the skills required for the O-2 visa. It also has experience performing critical tasks and essential support services for the O-1 non-immigrant.
For film or television productions, the evidence must show that the beneficiary is essential for the production to be successful. With a significant part of this carried out outside the US but whose completion will be within the USA.
How many people can obtain O-2 visas to support the work of an O-1?
The applicant for an O-1 visa can have a working group of between 2 and 15 people. It is something that depends on the type of work done and the talent that is shown.
What happens after the approval of the O-1 and O-2 visa?
At this point the beneficiary can already apply for his visa to the US consulate or embassy. The State Department will determine the processes for the visa application as well as the applicable fees.
Extension and period of stay of the O visa
The initial period of stay has a maximum of up to 3 years. To extend the period of stay in the USA, USCIS will be in charge. They will determine the time required to complete the activity or event in increments of up to 1 year.
As a Non-Immigrant O holder, the beneficiary will be admitted to the US for the period of validity of the petition, plus up to 10 days before the validity begins and 10 days after. It is important to emphasize that the beneficiary may only engage in authorized employment during the period in which the request is valid.
Documentation required to extend the O visa
To extend the visa, the petitioner must request it from to USCIS, for which he must present the following documents:
- Form I-129.
- A copy of Form I-94.
- A statement where the petitioner explains the reasons for extending the period.
The beneficiary’s spouse and children can file Form I-539 and send the required documentation to extend their stay.
The O-3 visa for family members of O-1 and O-2 visa holders
- The spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 accompanying the O-1 or O-2 non-immigrant may be eligible to apply for the O-3 visa. All under the same period of stay and limitations as O-1 and O-2 visa holders.
- They cannot work in the US under this category but they can study part or full time.
- The O visa holder may apply for a B-1 visa for their domestic employees, provided that they meet the requirements.
Change of employer for non-immigrant with O-1 visa
To make the change, your new employer must file Form I-129 at the USCIS office indicated in the instructions.
Please note that there are special regulations for athletes:
- When the professional athlete changes teams, the current employment authorization with a new employer will continue for 30 days. During this period the new employer must file a new form I-129. This fact will already lengthen the permit until the petition is adjudicated.
- If the new employer does not submit the new form within 30 days the athlete will lose their employment authorization. You will also lose it if the athlete denies the new request.
Return transportation payment
If the O visa beneficiary’s employment terminates for reasons other than voluntary separation, it is the employer who will pay for the transportation costs of the non-immigrant’s return to their residence outside the US.
In the case of an agent who filed the petition on behalf of an employer, both the agent and the employer will be responsible for this cost.
Expert O visa attorneys for the United States
You may have doubts about which visa you should apply for. In our comprehensive guide about the different types of visas for the USA we have written detailed articles like this one for all the main visas. For this reason and together with the combined experience of over 50 years of our lawyers we are well aware of the dilemma that may arise.
For example, the O visa is very similar to the EB-2 visa. Its main difference lies in the fact that with the latter one you emigrate to the United States permanently. Therefore obtaining the Green Card. That is, it would fit more perhaps for people with advanced studies beyond the bachelor’s degree or those with exceptional ability in arts, sciences or business.
The EB-1 visa opens up another option for people in the fields of sports, arts, science, education and business, however there may be a problem with the quotas per fiscal year that requires the visa lottery.
As you can see there are different paths to the same goal and knowledge is key. The easiest thing is to get advice from a good immigration lawyer. We have been immigration experts for over 40 years and we will be happy to assist you.