O-1 Visa

Assisting Individuals And Companies With O-1 Visa Petitions

The immigration attorneys at C.T. Lee & Associates in New York, assist sponsoring companies and individuals with O-1 visa applications. Our clients often face tight timelines with O-1 and other visa applications. Our experience allows us to cut through the clutter and avoid mistakes that can delay progress and complete the process expediently.

O-1 visas are granted for a three-year period or for the duration of the project that the beneficiary is working on. An O-1 visa can be renewed every year thereafter in one-year increments.

O-1 Visa General Info

An O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that may be obtained by individuals who possess extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement, indicated by a level of expertise or accomplishment that is higher than their peers in the same industry or profession. The criteria for qualifying as an individual who possesses “extraordinary ability” or “extraordinary achievement” varies among professions, but can generally be demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim or by a record of skills and experience which is not of a general nature and is critical. O-1 visa requirements have steadily grown more onerous throughout the years. Obtaining this visa without a lawyer can be difficult even for highly qualified individuals. There are two types of O-1 visas: O-1A and O-1B.

Evidence/Documents To Prove O-1A Visa Eligibility

The evidence and documentation required for O-1A visas is different depending on whether the O-1A visa is being requested in the field of science, education, business or athletics, or if it is being requested in the field of arts.

To be eligible for an O-1A visa in the field of science, education, business and athletics, individuals must demonstrate their “extraordinary ability” by either being the recipient of a major, internationally recognized award (e.g. a Nobel Prize), or by demonstrating fulfillment of at least three of the following criteria:

  • Documentation of receipt of lesser nationally (not necessarily U.S.) or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field or industry. An example is a regional award and not a school award.
  • Documentation of membership in associations in the field of endeavor that require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their fields. An example is being elected as a board member on a company specializing in the field and not being part of a simple social organization in the field.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or in the major media about the alien and relating to the alien’s work in the field of endeavor. An example is an exposé in an architectural magazine or blog and not a simple interview on a website.
  • Evidence of participation as a judge (individually or as a part of a panel) of the work of others in the person’s field. An example is a judge of a doctorate thesis and not a judge of a school talent show.
  • Evidence of scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field of endeavor. An example is holding a patent and not just a business plan.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media.
  • Evidence of performance in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations. This can be for a project or company you worked for in the past.
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others.
  • If the criteria mentioned in the previous paragraphs do not apply to the industry of the individual applying for the visa, the individual is able to prove his or her extraordinary ability with comparable evidence.

Evidence/Documents To Prove O-1B Visa Eligibility

To be eligible for an O-1B visa in the field of arts, individuals must demonstrate their “extraordinary ability” by either being the recipient or a nominee of a significant international or national award such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy or a Director’s Guild Award, or by demonstrating fulfillment of at least three of the following criteria:

  • Evidence that the individual has performed or will be performing services as a lead or starring participant in productions that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence that the individual has achieved national or international recognition for her or his work by critical reviews or other published material about the individual in major newspapers or publications.
  • Evidence that the individual has performed or will be performing services as a lead or starring participant for organizations and establishments with distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence that the individual has a record of major successes, evidenced by such indicators as motion pictures and television rating, standing in the field or box office receipts.
  • Evidence that the individual has received significant recognition for his or her achievements from organizations, government agencies, critics or other recognized experts in the field.
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others.

If the criteria mentioned in the previous paragraphs do not apply to the industry of the individual applying for the visa, the individual is able to prove his or her extraordinary ability with comparable evidence.

O-1B visas are reserved for individuals who work in the fields of film, motion picture or television. To be eligible, individuals must demonstrate their “extraordinary achievement” by being the recipient of a major, internationally recognized award for excellence (e.g. an Oscar), or by demonstrating fulfillment of at least three of the following criteria:

  • The individual has been or will be performing a lead or starring role in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation (as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, press releases, publications, contracts or endorsements)
  • There are critical reviews or other published material in professional or major trade publications or in the major media by or about the individual, which show that the individual has achieved national or international recognition or achievements
  • Evidence of performance in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations
  • Evidence of a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or records, television or motion picture ratings, or standing in the field
  • Evidence of significant recognition for achievements from organizations, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others

Consultation/Advisory Opinion Requirement

One of the most arduous aspects of obtaining an O-1 Visa is the requirement that the applicant obtain a written opinion by a recognized United States labor organization or peer group within the field of expertise. These opinions state whether the labor organization or the peer group considers that the applicant is an individual with extraordinary ability or achievement. The United States Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a list of designated organizations in different industries that are qualified to issue these written opinions. For example, one of the designated organizations for actors is the Screen Actors Guild, which covers actors who work in film, digital motion pictures, television, commercials, video games and other new media platforms. Usually if a designated organization exists, the applicant should obtain a written opinion from that organization unless the applicant can get a written opinion from an even more qualified organization. Thankfully, a negative opinion does not necessarily mean that your O-1 application will be denied but it is a significant hurdle to overcome. Our firm has overcome negative advisory opinions before. We advise any O-1 applicant to hire our firm at the beginning of the O-1 visa process because receiving a positive advisory opinion often comes down to how you present your materials to the labor organization or peer group.

A written advisory opinion is not necessary if a labor organization or peer group does not exist in the field of expertise of the applicant. However, the O-1 applicant must make an exhaustive effort to find out whether any organizations in his or her field exist.

For those individuals applying for the O-1B visa, the regulation requires two advisory opinions. One of them must come from a labor organization and the second from a peer group.

O-1 Visa Sponsor

The O-1 visa requires that applicants have a sponsor who will file the O-1 visa petition for the applicant. This sponsor may be 1) the sole employer of the applicant for the duration of the visa; or 2) may be just an agent of the applicant, who works to secure different projects on the applicant’s behalf. A sponsor can be either a company or a person. The main reason why an applicant finds an agent as opposed to an employer is if the applicant works on a project-by-project basis.

If the sponsor of the visa petition is the employer of the applicant, an employment contract must exist and the employment contract (which needs to state the salary that the applicant will receive) needs to be included in the petition. In this scenario, the applicant can only work for the employer, meaning that the employer (sponsor) is the only authorized entity to pay the salary to the applicant.

On the other hand, if the sponsor of the visa petition acts simply as an agent of the applicant, who will secure projects for the applicant once the applicant arrives in the United States, the agent needs to show that he or she has secured enough work for the applicant for the total duration of the visa. In order to show this, the agent (sponsor) needs to provide contracts with companies which reflect that there are outstanding projects and that the applicant will work on them. In this case, the applicant can receive compensation from any company for which he or she performs projects.

Itinerary

O-1 visa applications require an itinerary, which is a detailed explanation of the nature of the events or activities where the applicant will work. The itinerary must include activities or events covering the entire period of stay of the applicant in the United States. The itinerary must reflect the beginning and end dates of each project and the project location.

Advantages Of The O-1 Visa

There are many advantages to O-1 visas. O-1 visas are granted relatively quickly and are generally granted for three years with unlimited extensions if the applicant can show an ongoing project or new projects in the future. Furthermore, the O-1 visa category is more extensive than other work visa categories in terms of the eligible professions and has no annual quota cap, unlike H-1B visas. O-1 visa holders may travel in and out of the United States as often as they please. Most important is that the O-1 visa has presumed dual intent, and thus the process of adjusting status is much easier than with other visas.

Derivative Visas To The O-1 Visa

Additionally, individuals who will accompany the O-1 visa holder in a capacity that is integral to his or her work are eligible for O-2 visas, contingent upon the fact that the individual has skills or experience that is not readily available among United States citizens.

The immediate family of an O-1 visa holder is granted an O-3 visa. Holders of O-3 visas may attend school but do not have authorization to work.

Work With An O-1 Visa Lawyer Who Has A Proven Track Record

The immigration lawyers at C.T. Lee & Associates, have helped thousands of individuals from more than 30 different countries successfully obtain the immigration status they need to live and work in the United States. Our corporate clients come from a diverse range of industries and include companies of all sizes.

We emphasize on personalized service and clear communication to keep our clients informed on the status of their case. We welcome the opportunity to review your immigration needs and recommend the best course of action. Use our contact form or call 800-494-3809 to schedule an appointment and provide us more information about your situation.