O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The O-1 Visa is for outstanding individuals. The visa enables people with extraordinary ability in the field of sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements to enter the US for temporary periods of time.

The O non-immigrant classification are commonly referred to as:

  • O-1A: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry);
  • O-1B: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry;

USCIS loosely defines this category, and the spectrum of eligible individuals also includes chefs, carpenters and lecturers. To be considered an outstanding individual, you should be highly regarded in your field, and can only work in the U.S. in that area of expertise.


  • The O-1 Visa must be petitioned by a U.S. employer, U.S. agent or foreign employer through a U.S. agent.
  • Your petitioner should file the Form I-129 with the USCIS having jurisdiction over the state in which you intend to work. The Employer or agent cannot file the petition more than one year before they actually need your services
  • The petition must include a printed article or statement from either a person or group proficient in your field. This person/group should support your status as a respected member of your field.


Applicants must provide the following documents:

  • A filled-in visa application Form DS-160.
  • One recent photograph 1 & 1/2 inches square (37mm x 37mm) of each applicant, with the entire face visible. The picture should be taken before a light background and without head covering.
  • A passport, valid for travel to the United States for at least six months longer than your intended visit.
  • Your petitioner must also include the following documents:
  • Your resume/CV and educational history. Proof of your eligibility. Evidence that proves you have received recognition or awards in your field.
  • Printed documents by previous employers or experts in your field that show your level of achievement in your field.
  • Employer financial information.
  • A letter from your employer detailing the work you intend to perform while in the US.


The O1 visa is normally valid for up 3 years. However, if it is granted to cover a specific event, production, or activity, the period may be less. Extensions are available in 1-year increments, and there is no limit on extensions, however the visa holder must show that they are continuing with same position or activity for which the original visa was granted.

As an O nonimmigrant, you may be admitted to the United States for the validity period of the petition, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends. You are only authorized to work during the validity period of the petition.


The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may join you in the US under O-3 status.

They may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may participate in full-time or part-time study on an O-3 visa.