What constitutes ‘extraordinary ability’ under the O-1B visa?
In order to qualify for an O-1B visa you must be recognized as being prominent in your field of endeavour as demonstrated by the following:
- evidence that you have been nominated for, or have been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in your field
- at least three of the following:
- evidence you have performed, and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation;
- evidence you have achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about you in major publications;
- evidence you have performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
- evidence that you have a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
- evidence that you have received significant recognition for achievements from experts in the field; or
- evidence that you have commanded a high salary or will command a high salary in relation to others in the field.
If the aforementioned criteria do not readily apply to your occupation, you may provide comparable evidence to establish your eligibility for O-1 status.
What is the application process for the O-1B visa?
You may be eligible for an O-1B visa if you have extraordinary ability in the arts.
Obtaining an O-1B visa is a two-step process involving:
- a petition filed with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and
- a visa interview at a US consular post abroad.
In order for you to obtain an O-1B visa, it will be necessary for a US company to file an O-1B visa petition with US on your behalf. The US company may be your employer, or if you will work in the US for a foreign employer, a company designated by your foreign company to file the petition as its agent.
Your O-1B petition must include the following to demonstrate your eligibility for the O-1B visa:
- documentation establishing your extraordinary ability;
- a contract for your US employment, or if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms under which you will be employed;
- an explanation of the nature of the activities you will perform in the US; and
- a written advisory opinion from an appropriate consulting entity or entities (if an appropriate entity exists).
Depending on whether an appropriate US peer group exists for your field of work, it may be necessary to obtain an advisory opinion for your O-1 petition. If a peer group exists and is amenable to issuing an advisory opinion, it will review your qualifications and render an opinion on your extraordinary ability.
If an appropriate US peer group does not exist, USCIS will render a decision on your case based on the information provided.
Once your O-1B petition is complete, it will be submitted to USCIS for adjudication. USCIS aims to adjudicate O-1B petitions within two weeks, however actual processing times may vary depending on workload.
If during the adjudication process a USCIS adjudicating officer determines that additional information and/or documentation is needed to render a decision on the case, a request for additional information will be issued. Such requests vary in length depending on the extent of information and documentation requested.
Upon receipt of the requested information and documentation, USCIS will resume processing of the petition.
For an additional fee, you may request premium processing of your petition. Under this service USCIS will adjudicate your case within 15 calendar days. If a request for additional evidence is issued on a petition filed using the premium processing service, USCIS will have an additional 15 calendar days from receipt of the response to adjudicate the case.
What happens at the O-1B visa interview?
Presuming your O-1B petition is approved, you will arrange a visa interview at a US consular post abroad. Interview procedures vary widely among consular posts so it is important to carefully follow instructions provided for the post where your O-1B interview will be held.
At your O-1B visa interview a consular officer will ask you questions to confirm the information provided in the O-1B petition about you and your US employment. You will be notified of the decision made on your application at your interview. Provided your application is approved the consular officer will retain your passport for visa stamping.
Your passport with embossed O-1B visa stamp will be returned to you within approximately one week of your interview. Once received you are permitted to travel to the US to work in O-1B status in line with the employment described in your O-1B petition.
Is it mandatory to have secured a job in the US to be eligible for the O-1 visa?
Yes, you must demonstrate you have set work in the US in your field of extraordinary ability. Prospective employment in the US is not permitted.
Does an O-1 visa lead to US permanent residence?
You may potentially be eligible for an Extraordinary Ability Green Card but you will need to take advice to determine the options available to you.
Can I renew my O-1 visa?
O-1A and B visas are renewable indefinitely, provided you continue to meet O-1 visa requirements.