18
Mar, 2014


The O-1 visa is for persons of extraordinary ability in the arts and entertainment, athletics, sciences, business and education. In actual fact, anyone who excels in his or her field or specialty can qualify for an O-1 visa.

Any artist, performer, entertainer, producer, or designer may apply for a full-time position if they meet the criteria for the visa. The O-1 visa is the perfect visa for visual and performing artists, designers and consultants who are typically self-employed. Such individuals do not usually have full-time permanent positions but rather work for multiple employers on short or long term projects or ongoing temporary assignments.

The regulations provide that such individuals may use the services of a US agent and do not require a full-time permanent position or employer. Rather, they may have an agent sponsor them. Our office is able to provide agents for the limited purpose of filing the O-1 visa.

The O-1 visa is granted for a maximum period of three years. After that, the alien may apply for annual extensions or may apply for a new three year visa.

The criteria for the O visa are divided into separate categories as follows:

  • The Arts
  • Motion Picture Industry
  • Science, Business and Athletics

The Arts

The arts include, but not limited to, fine, visual, culinary and performing arts. Essential personnel such as directors, choreographers, set designers, make-up artists, and stage technicians are included in this category.
Those in the arts must show “distinction” in their chosen fields, namely that they are prominent in their field, and have achieved a degree of skill and recognition over and above the general level. The applicant must show evidence of being nominated for, or being the recipient of, a significant national or international award, OR meet three of the following criteria:

  1. Has performed a leading or critical role in productions or events having a distinguished reputation;
  2. Has received critical reviews in newspapers, magazines or trade journals;
  3. Has performed a leading or critical role for organizations with a distinguished reputation;
  4. Has a record of major commercial or critically-acclaimed success;
  5. Has received significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field;
  6. Has commanded or will command a high salary;
  7. Comparable Evidence may be submitted where the above categories do not apply.

Motion picture or TV industry

Those in the film and television industry are held to a higher standard than those in the arts although the same criteria are used. They must show a history of “extraordinary achievement” rather then mere “distinction.”

Science, Business and Athletics

Applicants in these areas must show that they are one of a small percentage to have reached the top of the field. They can show national or international acclaim through receipt of a major international award or show evidence that they meet three of the following criteria:

  1. Has received a nationally or internationally recognized award;
  2. Holds membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement;
  3. Published materials about applicant in professional or trade publications;
  4. Has served as a judge of the work of others;
  5. Has produced original scientific or scholarly work of major significance in the field;
  6. Is the author of scholarly work;
  7. Has been employed in a critical role by an entity with a distinguished reputation;
  8. Has received or will receive a high salary.

O-1 visas may be issued for a maximum period of three years. Thereafter, they may be extended indefinitely on an annual basis or a new three year visa may be obtained. As with most nonimmigrant visas, an alien in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status, such as B or F, may file for a change of status to O-1 without leaving the country. Alternatively, the alien may choose to return to his or her home country in order to receive an O-1 visa stamp in his or her passport at the U.S. Consulate.

O-2 visas are available for those accompanying the principal O-1 visa holder if their work is an integral part of the principal visa holder’s performance or artistic endeavors and they possess critical skills and experience that are not of a general nature and cannot be performed by other individuals.

Spouses and children of O-1 visa holders are granted O-3 visas.

Note that is it possible to have concurrent O-1 visas. This can happen where the visa holder is already working for one employer on an O-1 visa and wishes to accept a second part-time position or to work through an agent on occasional temporary assignments. In such a situation, the agent would file for a second O-1 visa and the foreign national would then be authorized to work for two separate employers.

This office has successfully obtained O-1 visas for individuals in a wide array of fields, including:

  • University Professor;
  • Global Financial Strategist;
  • Veterinarian;
  • Architectural Designer;
  • Architect;
  • Art Director;
  • Variety Entertainer/Drag Artist;
  • Translator/Editor/Writer;
  • Video Artist/Videographer;
  • Photographer;
  • Photojournalist;
  • Stage and Screen Actor;
  • Voice-over Artist;
  • Radio & TV Announcer.
  • Decorative Artists;
  • Painter/Sculptor/Installation/Multimedia Artist;
  • Stage Manager;
  • Lighting/Sound Designer;
  • Set Designer;
  • Graphic Designer;
  • Motion Graphic Designer;
  • Animation Artist;
  • Illustrator;
  • Furniture Designer;
  • Industrial/Product Designer;
  • Jewelry Designer;
  • Musician/Composer/Songwriter;
  • DJ/Producer;
  • Fashion/Costume Designer;
  • Fashion Stylist;
  • Hair and Make-Up Artist;
  • Nail artist;
  • Dancer, singer and choreographer;
  • Model.

The O-1 Visa Process

Our office has over 15 years’ experience in submitting O-1 visa applications for a variety of scientists, designers and artists, as well as architects and architectural designers. We know that thorough preparation and attention to detail is the key to success. It is advisable to have a professional review of your background and materials. Whilst an artist may not conform strictly to the O-1 criteria, there are alternative approaches that may work. Some cases require more work than others. Our office will conduct an intensive review of your materials to determine eligibility and requirements. In some instances, the applicant may need to obtain more evidence or experience before we determine that the case is strong enough. Some cases can be ready for filing within a few weeks, others take up to six months to prepare.

After reviewing your materials, our office will advise you what materials are needed to ensure a strong case. We will provide templates and examples appropriate for your particular case, and work with you to prepare the evidence. Our goal is submit a thoroughly documented case and to get a straight approval without receiving a Request for Evidence (“RFE”), which can create long delays. A Request for Evidence is issued where the Immigration Service deems that additional information or documentation is required in order to approve the case. 90% of our applications are approved without an RFE.

Amongst many other types of O-1 cases, we have been successfully processing O-1 visas for architects and architectural designers for many years. These cases are challenging since the Immigration Services holds architects and architectural designers to a high standard, even though they fall into the arts category.


Our office filed 76 O-1 visa applications in 2016 and 75 were approved, mostly without a Request for Evidence. See the Table below for details.