The United States has always been a land of opportunity, which is why so many foreign citizens try so hard to get to the United States for work. If they possess extraordinary abilities in the arts or athletics, foreign citizens may qualify for an O-1 visa. As holders of O-1 visas, immigrants can qualify for a stay period of up to three years in the U.S., with an extension of stay granted in one year increments for as long as the validation holder remains active in his or her field. There are two types of O-1 visas, as well as two additional O series visas that are issued to individuals who may travel with the primary O-1 validation holder.
The O-1A validation is reserved for those who have achieved extraordinary ability in the field of athletics, but is also issued to those with extraordinary abilities in the fields of business, education, and science.
The O-1B validation is reserved for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the fields of art or in the TV or movie business.
The O-2 visa is not for athletes and performers themselves, but is for individuals who will accompany the primary performer into the United States for the purpose of assisting the primary performer through the primary performance. Holders of this type of validation must be an “integral” part of the O-1 validation holder’s performance.
The O-3 visa is reserved for the spouses and children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.
Although the United States invites foreign artists, performers and athletes to come to the United States to practice their craft, it does not make the process very easy. The government requires foreign citizens who are applying for an O-1A or O-1B validation to meet certain evidentiary requirements – that is, to provide specific proof that the individual has reached a certain level of extraordinary ability and recognition.
For athletes applying for an O-1A visa and artists and performers applying for an O-1B visa, extraordinary ability can be shown if the athlete, artist, or performer has received a major international award or prize. In the absence of an international award or prize, the government allows foreign athletes, artists, and performers to show that they have reached a level of extraordinary ability through substitute criteria, like membership in certain respected organizations relating to the field in which the O validation holder will work, a substantially higher relative salary or pay rate than others in the same field, or significant recognition from critics and organizations in the field in which the foreign citizen works. If they have never won a major, internationally recognized award or prize, then three substitute criteria, like those that were just mentioned, can take the place of the major, international prize.
Always Best to Get Good Legal Advice
To say the least, working without an attorney for an O series validation is possible, but can be very tricky, and is not generally recommended. The government has very strict requirements in place for holders of O series visas and failure to prove that these requirements are met can result in a visa denial. An experienced attorney will know what the foreign citizen needs to do and what he or she needs to show in order for the application process to go as smooth as possible.