O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability

Work Visas

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O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability

O-1 visas are a broad visa category that is available to the best and brightest that the world has to offer.  Possible O-1 applicants include those who possess extraordinary ability in:

  • O-1A – Sciences, Education, Business, Athletics, or
  • O-1B – Arts and the motion picture and television industry.

What is the process?

O-1 visa applicants will need a Petitioner/sponsor to file Form I-129 on their behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  The application process is an intensive one in which the O-1 applicant will need to establish their extraordinary ability in their field.  Once the application is approved, the O-1 applicant can apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, if necessary.

What are the Requirements?


One of the major requirements for an O-1 application is an advisory opinion from the applicant’s peer group or another expert in the field.  For example, a scientist in the same field can provide an opinion for a scientist.  For those in the motion picture/television industry, opinions must come from a labor union and a management organization.  


The specific documentation required varies between O-1A applicants (Sciences, Education, Business, Athletics) and O-1B applicants (Arts and those in the motion picture or television industry).

O-1A - Sciences, Education, Business, Athletics

An O-1A applicant can qualify based upon a single credential if it is important enough.  An internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, would be sufficient to qualify for O-1A status.  However, those cases are quite rare.  

One may also qualify for O-1A status by providing documentation of at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence;
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by other experts;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the applicant;
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in their field;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in their field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • High salary or other high renumeration.

O-1B -Individuals in the Arts or the Motion Picture and Television Industry

The O-1B visa requirements are generally the same as O-1A, but tailored a bit to match the special circumstances of the Arts/Television/Movie individuals.  Just like their O-1A peers, O-1Bs can qualify upon the receipt of a major award such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award.  

The alternate would be to document at least three of the following:  

  • The applicant has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation
  • The applicant has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials;
  • The applicant has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • The applicant has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
  • The applicant has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts;
  • The applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary.

The services of an immigration attorney are critical to the O-1 process in that they can identify important credentials/records/achievements and place them in a context that the government can understand.  

The Role of the Attorney

The attorneys of Sam Shihab and Associates have experience in advising O-1A and O-1B applicants, helping to bring the best and brightest to the United States.  Please call or email to schedule a consultation so we can learn about you and advise you on the immigration process.