O-1 Visas Lawyers in Seattle

O-1 is a work visa for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The O-1 gives you three years of work authorization in the United States that can be renewed indefinitely. 

 You do not need to meet a minimum salary requirement, hold a college degree, be a Nobel Laureate or rockstar to get your O-1 approved. Distinguished entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, start-up founders, athletes, models, artists and other creatives are eligible to apply.  You show you have extraordinary ability in your petition by meeting the certain criteria described below.

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What does “Extraordinary Ability” mean?

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by “sustained national or international acclaim”, and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field. Therefore, extraordinary ability generally means that you are an expert and have received recognition in your field. 

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, or well-known in the field of arts nationally or internationally.

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, you must demonstrate extraordinary achievement. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

Who Qualifies?

Start-up founders, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, key employees/managers/directors, software developers, engineers, researchers, photographers, UX-designers, fashion designers and stylists, marketing and branding professionals, public relations directors, athletes and coaches, chefs and sommeliers, lecturers, artists, architects, entertainers, gallery owners, agents, producers, athletes are welcome to apply if they meet certain O1A criteria. As an entrepreneur, you can qualify as having extraordinary ability – even if your start-up is only in the seed stage now. 
This is not a comprehensive list, so don’t hesitate to reach out to ask about your unique eligibility! (link to social networks or email)

    Eight criteria to showcase extraordinary ability in business, sciences, education, or athletics (O1A visa petition)

    You are qualified if you have received a major award (at the caliber of an Olympic Medal or Nobel prize), or you can provide evidence to document at least three of the following:

    • Membership in an association that requires outstanding achievements to be admitted into membership (for example: a start-up accelerator, an invitation only-business organization, a union of designers, etc.);
    • Press in major media or trade publications about you or your work; 
    • Judging other professionals in your field (for example: peer reviewing scholarly work of others, serving on a panel,  judging a competition like Startup Weekend, or mentoring other professionals in the field as an expert);
    • Original contribution of major significance in your field (for example: you have created an innovative startup or have discoveries in the scientific field);
    • Authorship of scholarly articles published in major media or professional journals;
    • You are a ‘critical’  or “essential” employee (you currently or have in the past played a crucial or leading role in an organization with distinguished reputation); 
    • High salary and other compensation, such as equity, as compared to your peers; and
    • National or international awards

     Evidence to showcase extraordinary ability in arts (O1B visa petition)

    The supporting documentation for an O-1B (Arts) petition must include evidence that the beneficiary has received, or been nominated for, a significant national or international award in the particular field (such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award) or evidence of at least three of the following criteria:

    • You have performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
    • You have achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
    • You have performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
    • You have a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
    • You have received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements; or
    • You have either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

    Advantages of the O-1 visa

    • No limit on the number of O-1s available (no annual lottery in contrast with H1B) 
    • No industry requirements 
    • No salary minimums
    • No required university degree
    • You will likely be able to apply for a green card based on extraordinary ability and get permanent residence later
    • O visa petitions can be approved by the US Immigration Services within 15 business days of applying
    The process can take several months or even years to complete, depending on various factors, such as the USCIS workload and the embassy or consulate’s processing times. Please call our office at +1 206-558-6288 for a consultation to ensure all your applications are filled out correctly and supported by the correct evidence. 
    A young couple kissing on their U.S. trip

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long is the O-1 processing time?

    Standard processing will take 3-6 months and is not guaranteed. If you decide to pay the premium processing fee ($2,805), you will receive a governmental response within 15 business days.

    Can I get permanent residency?

    The O-1A is valid for three years. After that, you can apply for unlimited extensions. The O-1 often offers a direct path to permanent residency (Green Card) via an immigrant visa petition based on extraordinary ability (EB1a green card category).

    How to apply for O-1?

    A job offer from an American employer is a basic requirement for the O visa. A U.S. employer, U.S. agent, or foreign employer through a U.S. agent should file Form I-129 (https://www.uscis.gov/i-129) at least 45 days before the start date of employment. Independently filing this visa petition and petitioning for yourself is not allowed. 

    If you want to change jobs while on O1A status, a new O1 visa petition will be necessary. And sometimes, O-1s can be sponsored by a U.S. company that is in business as an agent. Under this option, it is possible to work for multiple U.S. clients.

    If a startup founder applies for O1A, you will usually choose someone who has authority on behalf of the company to sign the government forms and letters (typically, a cofounder or board member).

    Can I bring my spouse and children?

    Yes! For spouses and children, the O-3 classification may be an option. Under this visa classification, there is no work authorization, but study is permitted. O-2 classification is available for people accompanying an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance. 

    Moving to another country is a hassle – we have experienced it firsthand. Please reach out to us any time for your immigration questions and needs. Fill out the questionnaire here for our experienced immigration attorney Katya Stelmakh to evaluate whether you qualify for O-1 visa. We will get back to you to schedule your appointment with the attorney.

    What is the difference between O-1A and H-1B?

    The H-1B requires a U.S. Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent), has certain limitations like a lottery selection for processing on the merits and a six-year limit for staying in the U.S. O-1As don’t have an annual cap, you can apply any time of year, and can extend your visa indefinitely.

    Fun fact! Which celebrities came to the USA with an O-1 work visa?

    Canadian singer Justin Bieber, Canadian model Shera Bechard, columnist and editor Clive Crook, director Gavin Free, Filipina actress and concert performer Jolina Magdangal, English broadcaster Piers Morgan, English musician Gary Numan, Brazilian footballer Pelé, South Korean rapper Psy, Welsh actor Taron Egerton, and Kenyan programmer and entrepreneur Mubarak Muyika, to name a few.

    Photos: OPPO Find X5 Pro and Nathan McBride on Unsplash

    Please call us at +1 206-558-6288 or book a consultation with our attorney to evaluate your case

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