O Visa – Persons with Extraordinary Ability

An O-1 visa authorizes entry to a person who has extraordinary ability in science, the arts, education, business, or athletics, and an O-2 visa authorizes the admission of aliens coming to accompany and assist an O-1 nonimmigrant with a specific performance or event.

An O nonimmigrant may be admitted for the duration of the event, production, or activity. The regulations define the event as broadly as possible, including an entire season of performances, a group of related activities, an entire academic year or a business or scientific project. An initial O petition can be approved for up to three years with no limit on extensions.

O-1 Classification

The O-1 classification authorizes visa issuance to a person who has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, and who will continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. The law requires that the O-1 candidate’s extraordinary ability be demonstrated by “sustained national or international acclaim.” The extraordinary ability provisions are intended to be highly restrictive. Separate qualifying standards under the O-1 classification apply to different classes of applicants based on their field of endeavor.

Some applicants for O-1 classification will be engaged in formal employment, while others, due to nature of their extraordinary activities, are likely to be self-employed. Nevertheless, O nonimmigrants may not petition for themselves. An established agent may file a petition in lieu of an employer for an alien who is traditionally self-employed or who plans to arrange short-term employment with numerous employers.

O-2 Classification

An O-2 visa authorizes the admission of support personnel coming to accompany and assist the O-1 nonimmigrant with a specific performance or event. The O-2 candidate must be integral to the performance and have critical skills and experience working with the O-1 nonimmigrant that cannot be performed by other individuals.

All O visa applicants must overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, a question that arises upon visa application, entry, extension of stay, or change of status. O-2 candidates must further establish that they are coming to the U.S. for a temporary purpose only, and that they have a residence abroad that the applicant has no intention of abandoning.