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Rewarding Talent:
The 0-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability


By John C. Valdez, Attorney at Fontes Figueroa Law Group

Serving clients in Orange County, Riverside County, and surrounding areas.

Talent is always in demand. For that reason, the United States has a need to welcome talented foreign nationals with stellar credentials who can be considered part of “the cream of the crop.” The O-1 visa is a category designed to fulfill this very purpose.

The O-1 visa is available to individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics who have demonstrated sustained national or international acclaim, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

Person’s Eligible for O-1 Classification
O-1 classification is limited to people coming to the United States to work in an area in which they are extremely talented. To be eligible for O-1 classification, the petitioner must show that the foreign national can meet one of the following two requirements:

  • 1. The receipt of a major, internationally recognized award for excellence in the field of endeavor. This award must truly be one of the most coveted prizes in the field of endeavor. The example of this type of award listed in government regulations is a Nobel Prize. See 8 CFR § 214.2(o)(3)(iii)(A).
  • 2. A second way to prove eligibility for O-1 classification is to demonstrate three of the following:
  • a. Receipt of national or internationally recognized awards for demonstrated excellence in the person’s field of endeavor;
  • b. Membership in associations which require outstanding achievement of its members in the required discipline or field;
  • c. Publications in professional or major trade publications or major media about the person, relating to his or her work for which classification is sought;
  • d. Participation on a panel, or as an individual judge of work of others in the person’s field of expertise or an allied field;
  • e. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the foreign national’s area of expertise;
  • f. Authorship of scholarly articles in the person’s field in professional journals or other major media;
  • g. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments with a distinguished reputation; or
  • h. A high salary or evidence that the person will command a high salary.

If the above-listed criteria do not readily apply to the occupation in which the person will work, the petitioner may provide comparable evidence to establish the individual’s eligibility for O-1 classification.

The goal of the petitioner in an O-1 case is to prove to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) one of the following:

  • If the petition is for a person working in the field of science, education, business, or athletics, the petitioner must show that the person has expertise indicating he or she is one of a small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.

  • If the petition is for a person working in the motion picture or television industry, the petitioner must show that the person has achieved a very high level of accomplishment as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above the ordinary to the extent that the person is considered outstanding, notable, or leading in the field.

Application Procedure
U.S. employers, and in some cases agents, may file a petition for a foreign national’s O-1 classification by submitting a Form I-129 with the USCIS. Because the government thoroughly exams these petitions, which must met a high set of criteria, petitioners should be careful to use an experienced and highly qualified attorney to prepare the application. In addition to providing evidence to show that the applicant can meet the above-listed criteria for O-1 classification, the government requires the petitioner to submit a consultation opinion attesting to the person’s outstanding level of achievement in the field of endeavor. The person’s family members may be granted O-3 classification.

Length of Stay
The USCIS may grant O-1 applicants an initial period of stay up to three years. The government will look to the purpose of the admission, such as participation in an event or project to determine the exact amount of time to award. The USCIS may grant extensions of O-1 status in one year increments. There is no limit on the number of extensions that may be granted.

One valuable feature of the O-1 category is that it allows for “dual intent.” Dual intent is a concept that refers to the fact that some nonimmigrant visa categories allow a foreign national to come to the United States on a temporary basis even though the person intends to apply for permanent residence. This means that while the O-1 nonimmigrant may be granted status allowing him or her to remain in the United States for a specific period of time, the person may submit a green card application without negative consequences.

The O-1 category can be an effective way to bring an extremely valuable person to the United States for employment. If you or someone you know needs assistance with O-1 visa issuance, please contact Fontes Figueroa Law Group’s Immigration Attorneys at 714-571-0738.