O-1 Visa for Persons of Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 visa is for persons of extraordinary ability in the arts and entertainment, athletics, sciences, business and education. Technically, anyone who excels in his or her field or specialty can qualify for an O visa.

The O-1 visa is also the perfect visa for artists or athletes who do not usually have full-time permanent positions but rather undertake a series of short-term temporary assignments.


The criteria for the O visa are divided into separate categories as follows:

1.The Arts
2.Motion Picture Industry
3.Science, Business and Athletics

The Arts

The arts include, but are not limited to, fine arts, visual, culinary and performing arts. Essential personnel such as directors, choreographers, set designers, make-up artists, stage technicians & animal trainers are included in this category.

Those in the arts must show “distinction” in their chosen fields, namely that they are prominent in their field, and have achieved a degree of skill and recognition over and above the general level. The applicant must show evidence of being nominated for, or being the recipient of, a significant national or international award, such as an Emmy, or meet three of the following criteria:

1. Leading or critical role in production having a distinguished reputation;

2. Critical reviews in newspapers, magazines or trade journals;

3. Leading or critical role for an organization with a distinguished reputation;

4. Record of major commercial or critically-acclaimed success;

5. Significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field;

6. Has commanded or will command a high salary.

If the above criteria do not apply, comparable evidence may be submitted to prove eligibility.

Motion picture or TV industry

Those in the film and television industry are held to a higher standard than those in the arts although the same criteria are used. They must show a history of “extraordinary achievement” rather than mere “distinction.”

Science, Business and Athletics

Applicants in these areas must show that they are one of a small percentage to have reached the top of the field. They can show national or international acclaim through receipt of a major international award or show evidence that they meet three of the following criteria:

1. receipt of nationally or internationally recognized award;

2.membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement;

3. published materials about the applicant in professional or trade publications;

4. judge of the work of others;

5.original scientific or scholarly work of major significance;

6. authorship of scholarly work;

7. evidence of employment in a critical role by an entity with a distinguished reputation;

8. has received or will receive a high salary.

O-1 visas are usually issued for a period of three years. Thereafter, they may be extended indefinitely on an annual basis.

O-2 visas are available for support staff of the O-1 visa holders. Spouses and children of

O-1 visa holders are granted O-3 visas.