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O-1 Alien of Extraordinary Ability

What is the O–1 Visa?

The O–1 Visa is reserved for foreign nationals with "extraordinary ability or achievement" in the following areas:

  • Athletics
  • Business/Entrepreneurial
  • Education
  • Sciences
  • The Arts
  • Motion Picture or TV Industry

To qualify under the O–1 category, an applicant must be recognized internationally (or nationally) because of his or her achievements.

Four categories of the O Visa
  • O–1A Visas are for immigrants who can demonstrate a superior ability in athletics, education, sciences, or business.
  • O–1B Visas are reserved for applicants with extraordinary ability in the TV or motion picture industries or the arts.
  • O–2 Visas are intended for foreign nationals who accompany athletes and/or artists to special events or performances in the United States. To qualify for an O–2 Visa, an applicant must have special skills and/or experience with the performer that cannot be easily provided by an American worker.
  • O–3 Visas are for the immediate family of O–1 and O–2 Visa holders (i.e., children and spouses).
Threshold of eligibility

The beneficiary of an O–1 Visa must be "extraordinary" in his or her field. For instance, a television actor who has appeared regularly on an internationally broadcast sitcom, or a star football player who has played in the top league in his country would be good candidates. The level of distinction one must reach to meet this threshold is somewhat subjective, however, and O–1 visa petitions require extensive documentation in order to prove eligibility

Length of stay and potential to extend

USCIS allows up to three years for O–1 Visa applicants to remain in the United States to participate in an activity or an event related to the field of specialty. The Visa petitioner may request extensions of stay in one–year increments for the same event, or for a full three years for a new activity o event.

Children and Spouses (O–3 Visa holders) must fill out and file a form I 539.

Help with your O–1 Visa application

Given the many technical steps you must take, you may want to speak with the attorneys here at Howard Law. We can provide clear answers quickly to your pressing questions. We provide free consultations at 1–800–872–5925. Or email us through our website,