The “O-1” nonimmigrant classification authorizes visa issuance to a person who has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics who are seeking to enter the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

“O-2” classification 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 which cannot be performed by other individuals.

Dependent spouses and minor, unmarried children of O-1 and O-2 nonimmigrants are eligible for “O-3” status. T

The law require that the O-1 candidate’s extraordinary ability must 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 as follows:

  • O-1 candidates in the sciences, education or business fields must be shown to be “one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor” and “whose achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.”
  • For O-1 candidates in the arts, extraordinary means “distinction” which is established by showing a high level of achievement as shown by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered such that the candidate is recognized as prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known. This is a slightly less restrictive requirement than that applicable to O-1 candidates in the sciences, education or business fields.
  • A higher level of accomplishment than other artists is required of television and movie artists seeking O-1 classification who must be shown to have a very high level of accomplishment as shown by a degree of recognition that is significantly higher than average, and that they have been recognized as “outstanding, notable, or leading.”

Petition and Visa Application Procedure: An employer or agent seeking to accord status as an “O” status to a qualifying candidate must file a preliminary visa petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the U.S. 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. Established agents may file petitions in lieu of employers for an alien who is traditionally self-employed or who plans to arrange short-term employment with numerous employers.
Following petition approval, the visa candidate may apply for the “O” visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. All “O” visa applicants must overcome the presumption of immigrant intent discussed in our Nonimmigrant Visa Overview section. The question of nonimmigrant intent arises on visa application, entry, extension of stay, or change of status. O-2 but not O-1 candidates must establish that they are coming to the U.S. for a temporary purpose only, and that they have a residence abroad which the applicant has not intention of abandoning.

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.