O-1 Visa

An O-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for those with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, business, education, or athletics and who has been recognized for their achievements nationally or internationally.

How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. on an O-1 Visa?

When applying for an O-1 visa, you will list the event or activity with your petitioner employer that you will complete while in the United States. You are then allowed to stay for the amount of time necessary to complete that task. You may stay for an initial period of three years if you are able to establish that you will need this much time for the proposed employment.

An O-1 visa can also be extended. You must apply for an O-1 visa extension of stay. Grants of extensions are given in one-year increments if you qualify.

O-3 Visas for your Spouse and Children 

O-3 visas are available for your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to come with you to the U.S. while you are on your O-1 visa status. They will need to apply for an O-3 visa in order to accompany you. Their O-3 visa status will end when your O-1 visa status ends. While on an O-3 visa, your dependents are not eligible to work in the U.S., but they may study full-time or part-time.

Can Someone Who is Self-Employed Obtain an O-1 Visa?

Immigration regulations state that an O-1 visa applicant may not petition for himself or herself. Instead, an O-1 visa petition must be filed by a U.S. employer, U.S. agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent. If you are working solely for yourself, you will not be able to meet the requirements of this immigration classification. Therefore, if you are self-employed, an independent contractor, or someone who uses agents to arrange short-term employment with several employers (such as an actor, musician, etc.), you would need a U.S. agent to file your O-1 visa petition.

However, it is possible for the foreign employer to be a corporation that you own wholly or in part, if filed by a U.S. agent. The visa petition cannot be based on speculative employment and the other conditions of the employment must qualify for the O visa classification.

What Are the Requirements for an Artist Filing an O-1 Visa Petition?

In order to qualify for an O-1 visa, an artist is required to have acquired “distinction” in his or her artistic field. “Distinction” in the field means that you have reached a high level of achievement, shown by a degree of recognition and skill substantially higher than others in your field. This means that you are prominent, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

You may submit evidence of nomination or receipt of a major, nationally- or internationally-recognized award, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award.  If you do not have this, you can still prove you qualify for an O-1 visa by providing at least three of the following:

  • Evidence of performance in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations;
  • Evidence you have been or will be performing a lead or starring role in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation;
  • Critical reviews or other published material in professional or major trade publication or in the major media by or about you;
  • Evidence of a record of major commercial or critically-acclaimed successes in the performing arts;
  • Evidence of significant recognition for achievements form organizations, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field;
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or remuneration for services in relation to others in the field; and
  • Other comparable evidence.

What Are the Requirements for a Businessperson, Scientist, Educator, or Athlete Filing an O-1 Visa Petition?

Again, you will need to prove that you are at the top of your chosen field by submitting supporting documentation along with your O-1 visa application.  Evidence of receiving a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, would clearly qualify you. If you have not received such an award, however, you can still meet the requirement by providing at least three of the following:

  • Documentation of membership in associations in your field which require outstanding achievements of its members;
  • Documentation of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publication or in the major media about you and your work in your field;
  • Evidence of participation as a judge of the work of others in the field;
  • Evidence of authoring scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  • Evidence of scientific, scholarly, or business related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of performance in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations;
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others; and
  • Other comparable evidence.

Common Problems with an O-1 Visa Petition

You have the burden of proof to show that you have the required unique and exceptional experience, skills, or knowledge to qualify for an O-1 visa, and this can be very difficult to do. Sufficient and organized documentary evidence for each accomplishment must accompany your petition in order to receive an approval. An O-1 visa application and supporting documents can contain over 1,000 pages. Many times, USCIS will respond to your petition with a Request for Evidence, requiring you to explain parts of your petition in more detail or provide additional documentation. These requests must be adequately responded to in a timely manner or your petition will be denied.

How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help Your O-1 Visa Case

If you are filing an O-1 visa petition, we can help. At the Law Offices of Joshua Goldstein, our immigration attorneys are highly experienced and have successfully prepared and obtained approval for numerous O-1 visa petitions in Boston and surrounding areas. We will guide you through this complex immigration process and help find and resolve any issues that may only be apparent to an experienced immigration lawyer.

Call us today at (617) 722-0005. Schedule a consultation to learn more about the O-1 visa and how our immigration lawyers in Boston, MA can help you.