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O Visa Qualifications & Requirements

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

O Visa Qualifications & Requirements

Are you someone with extraordinary ability or achievement and wishing to move to the U.S.? If so, you may be considering the O visa. Eligibility however are stringent, in particular the requirements for O visa qualifications and large-scale recognition for your achievements.

What are the required O visa qualifications?

The specific requirements to be met will be determined by the classification you intend to apply for, either the O-1A or O-1B visa.

Importantly, the O-1 visa only applies to an individual and their own attainments. Applications cannot be made as a group or group achievements relied on for an individual O visa petition.

O-1A qualifications

O-1A visa for extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. This requires evidence of:

  1. Receipt of a major, internationally recognized award; and
  2. At least three of the following:
  • Documentation of your receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field of endeavour.
  • Documentation of your membership in associations in your field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about you, relating to your work in the field.
  • Evidence of your participation on a panel or as a judge of the work of others in your field.
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
  • Evidence that you have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence that you have commanded a high salary, or you will command a high salary for your services.

O-1B qualifications

O-1B visa for extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. This requires:

  1. Evidence that the beneficiary has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award.
  2. At least three of the following:
  • Proof that the applicant has performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements.
  • Proof that the applicant has achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.
  • Proof that the applicant has performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications.
  • Proof that applicant has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievement.
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence.

What is the O visa application process?

Obtaining an O visa is a two-step process involving a petition filed with USCIS and a visa interview at a US consular post overseas.

The O visa petition has to be filed on your behalf by your sponsor. The petition is to include documentation in support of your O visa qualifications, such as documentation establishing your extraordinary ability, your contract for 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).

Presuming your O-1A 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-1A interview will be held.

At your O-1A visa interview a consular officer will ask you questions to confirm the information provided in the O-1A 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.

How long is the O visa valid for?

O visas are typically granted for a period that allows the visa holder to complete the relevant project or event, up to a maximum of three years.

Extensions are permissible in increments of 12 months, with no restrictions on the number of times you can apply to extend the O visa.

O-1A and B visas are renewable indefinitely, provided you continue to meet O-1 visa requirements.

With an O-1 visa, you can also apply for permanent residence without raising issues of initial intent with USCIS.

Do I need a job for the O visa?

The O-1 visa is an employment-based visa, meaning you must show you have work in the US within your field of expertise. Prospective employment would not suffice for the O visa.

O visas also require applicants to be sponsored. You do not necessarily however have to be sponsored by your employer. It is possible to rely on an O-1 visa agent, such as an individual who professionally represents you and your employer. Take advice on your circumstances to ensure the criteria are satisfied and avoid issues with your petition.

Need assistance?

The O-1 visa is a highly attractive immigration route and with no annual cap on the number of O-1 visas that can be issued, provided you can evidence your eligibility and qualifications, this route can offer greater prospects of success than alternative options. Evidencing your eligibility and that you meet the O visa qualifications is however far from straight forward. The documentary requirements are extensive and will be critical to your prospects of making a successful application.

NNU Immigration are a team of specialist US immigration attorneys with specific expertise in the O visa category. For advice on your O visa petition, contact us.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, (The Legal 500, Who's Who Legal and AILA) and an experienced and trusted advisor to large multinational corporates through to SMEs. She provides strategic immigration advice and specialist application support to corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, actors and athletes from across the globe to meet their US-bound talent mobility needs.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals.

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.