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O-1 (Extraordinary Ability)

US Business Visa Category O-1 (Extraordinary Ability Visa)

Suitable for those with remarkable ability/skill within the sciences, arts, education, athletics or business

Those eligible to enter/work under the O-1 visa will be welcomed into the United States for the extraordinary abilities they demonstrate. To identify whether an individual is entitled to this visa, extensive documentation proving they meet required criteria must be provided.

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How do I know if I qualify for O-1 Extraordinary Ability status? 

The criteria for each field (sciences, arts, education, athletics or business) significantly differs. Dependent on the area in which you claim to have extraordinary skill, you must meet all relevant conditions – including those in television productions and motion pictures.

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What are the exact requirements for O-1A status? (Extraordinary ability in the sciences, athletics, education or business) 

To be qualified as eligible for the O-1A visa category, you need to prove you have a ‘level of expertise that indicates you are one of a very small percentage who have risen to the top level of their particular field/endeavor’.

Documentary evidence to be submitted:

  • Receipt or nomination of an internationally recognized award on a major scale. This can include an Olympic medal, Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize

OR three or more of the following:

  • Receipt of internationally/nationally recognized award(s)
  • Published materials specific to your skills/achievements in major trade or professional publications
  • Confirmed membership to an organization that requires top-level achievement for membership to be granted
  • Original, authentic scholarly/scientific work of major significance in your chosen field
  • Critique/judgement of others’ work
  • Confirmation of creation/authorship of scholarly work
  • Receives or has received in the past a significantly higher salary than others in your chosen field
  • Evidence of employment in an essential/critical role at an organization/company with a top-level reputation

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What are the exact requirements for O-1A status for extraordinary ability in the arts

In order to establish true eligibility for this status regarding the arts, you must prove a ‘high level of achievement/skill in the arts, proven by a certain degree of recognition substantially greater than normally encountered’.

Documentary evidence to be submitted:

  • Receipt or nomination of a majorly recognized national/international award. This can include an Academy Award, Director’s Guild Award, Grammy or Screen Actors Guild Award

OR three or more of the following:

  • Proof of a lead role in a production with a top-level, distinguished reputation
  • Proof of a lead role in an organization with a top-level, distinguished reputation
  • Critical reviews of your ability/performances in trade journals or major tabloids
  • Significant evidence of major critically acclaimed or commercial success
  • Receives or has received in the past a high salary
  • Distinguished recognition from critics, organizations, government agencies or other highly established experts in your chosen field

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What are the exact requirements of O-1B Extraordinary status in television productions or motion pictures? 

Whilst featuring similar criteria to that of O-1A status, eligibility to work under O-1B requires a higher standard within the arts to be met.

Documentary evidence to be submitted:

  • Receipt or nomination of a majorly recognized national/international award. This can include an Academy Award, Director’s Guild Award, Grammy or Screen Actors Guild Award

OR three or more of the following:

  • Has performed or is confirmed to perform a lead, starring role in events or productions that have a highly distinguished reputation – as evidenced by professional critics
  • Proof of a lead role in an organization with a top-level, distinguished reputation
  • Evidence of achieving international or national recognition for achievements within your chosen art discipline
  • Significant evidence of major critically acclaimed or commercial success
  • Distinguished recognition from critics, organizations, government agencies or other highly established experts in your chosen field
  • Proof of a higher salary than ordinarily given

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What are specific examples of evidence that must be submitted as part of supporting an O-1 visa petition? 

  • Advisory opinion from an expert source within your chosen field
  • Advisory opinion from a relevant managing organization or union
  • Previous awards
  • Contracts
  • Affidavits by previous/current employers or experts
  • Tax returns
  • Professional publications

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I’m seeking to enter the US as an athlete and will need to bring my coach with me – what visa will they require?

Those who wish to enter the US for the sole purpose of accompanying an O-1 visa holder, they need to apply for an O-2 visa.

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What are the primary criteria to be successfully accepted for an O-2 visa? 

  • Evidence of playing an integral role in relevant events, games or performances
  • Proof of possessing critical skills/abilities that aren’t considered ‘ordinary’ in nature, and can’t be provided by other individuals. This criterion must not be based on simply having a long-standing working relationship with the O-1 visa holder in question.
  • Maintaining confirmed foreign residence they don’t intent to abandon

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How long will O-1 and O-2 visas be valid for? 

Each individual case will be different dependent on the individual, meaning the period of time these visas will be granted depends on the total time necessary to fully complete the intended purpose of entering the US.

An O-1 visa will be valid for a maximum of 3 years at the beginning – this can be increased in 1-year increments if more time in the US is proven to be necessary.

You may enter the US for a time period of 10 days before your validity date, and can remain for a further 10 days following visa expiration.

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Am I able to bring my children and spouse under this visa? 

If you’re seeking to bring your spouse and children with you upon obtaining an O-1 visa, they will need to apply for O-3 visas.

If successful, they will all be permitted to stay in the US for the entire duration of your visa – but won’t be able to work during this time.

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How long will it take for my O-1 visa application to be processed?  

The overall O-1 application process is done in two stages: petition and application.

The processing time of the petition stage will heavily depend on where you’re filing from, whether you choose premium processing or whether USCIS requires further evidence (RFE) at this stage.

If you opt for premium processing, your petition must be judged within 15 calendar days. Otherwise, regular processing can take up to several months. And if USCIS requires further evidence from you, it doesn’t have to be processed within this 15-day period.

Once the petition stage is complete, applications are typically processed relatively quickly – but this may differ between embassies.

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Can I provide a self-petition for O-1 status? 

No – a self-petition for self-employment during your stay, or an application solely based on speculative employment that’s not 100% confirmed will not be accepted.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Taxes, Company Formation, and Residency in the U.S.

We’ve compiled over 150 of the most frequent questions and answers (FAQs) on tax, company formation, and residency in the U.S. in our knowledge base. You can visit our knowledge base here.

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Get Advice on Taxation, Company Formation, and Residency in the U.S.

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To solve this mental knot and pave your way to success, jump on a 1-hour telephone counseling session based on taxation, incorporation, and residency in the U.S. In this conversation, we will discuss specific technical issues such as tax, U.S. corporations or LLCs. Or we can discuss any strategic options you are considering.

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