O-1 Visa

Work Visa for Hiring Top Talent

O-1 Visa

O-1 visas are used by US employers to hire extraordinary people. Immigration Desk's O-1 clients include scientists, entrepreneurs and top-notch employees, as well as performers and athletes.

O-1 Visa

Basics of the O-1 Visa

Originally created for world-class athletes and exceptional performers, the O-1 visa is now also used by entrepreneurs whose ideas get funded; scientists working on research and development; software engineers creating the next generation of technology; and by many other professionals.

O-1A visas are for extraordinary achievers in sciences, education, business, and athletics. O-1B visas are for people in the arts, motion picture or television industry. If an athlete or performer holds the O-1 visa, their team can enter the US to support them on O-2 visas.


In 1990, the O-1 visa was created to attract the best and the brightest in their fields to the US. From approximately 3,000 O-1 visas issued in FY 1997, the number has increased to over 13,000 in FY 2015. Each year, the number of O-1 visas being approved is rising as more and more exceptional people relocate to the US. This makes O-1 the visa of choice for accomplished individuals to move seamlessly to work in the US.

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Eligibility Criteria

To prove that a person qualifies for an O-1 visa, the applicant has either won a top international award (like the Nobel prize) or must meet 3 out of this list of 10 criteria:

  • Been given a lesser known national or international prize
  • Hold a membership in associations that only allow outstanding people as members
  • Have professional accomplishments showcased in the news or print media
  • Be a reviewer or a judge of similar works in their industry
  • Have original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Be the author of scholarly articles
  • Be employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and have a distinguished reputation, or
  • Be paid an extremely high salary

Since the USCIS is not a judge of what is considered “extraordinary”, they expect at least 3 letters of recommendation from the applicant’s peers. The peers must themselves be extraordinary in their field and must know the applicant’s work well.

The USCIS looks at all the documents submitted together to see if the applicant has risen to the “top of their field”. The sponsoring employer must also confirm that they are offering a job to the applicant in their field of expertise.

While the list looks daunting, we have helped many clients document their accomplishments to successfully receive O-1 visas.

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The Filing Process & Duration of the Visa

O-1 visas are filed by employers or agents with the USCIS on behalf of the O-1 visa holder. Once approved, the applicant goes to the consulate to get the visa issued. If they are already in the US, they request a change of status to start work.

  • Duration of an O-1 visa:
    • Initial O-1 visas are issued for 3 years and can be extended indefinitely in 1-year increments.
  • Family members enter the US on O-3 visas. The spouse is not allowed to work.
  • O-1 visa holders often file for green cards, usually in the EB-1A category.
  • J-1, L1 and H1 visa holders sometimes qualify to change their status to an O-1 if their visa term runs out and they want to continue to work in the US.

To read additional details about the government’s filing process and fees for the O-1 visa, please visit the USCIS website here.

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How We Can Help

Problems When Filing the O-1 Visa

Proving that our clients’ qualifications rise to the level of a Nobel prize is a tough standard to meet. Out of 7 billion people on the planet, only 7 people win the Nobel prize each year. And we still don’t have a Nobel prize for business leaders and visionaries. While many of O-1 visas are filed for scientists, a growing number are now filed for business leaders and technology creators.

Starting in the 1970s, more of the truly exceptional people who apply for an O-1 visa each year are in the fields of science and Information Technology. They are working on technologies that did not exist 10 years ago. Sometimes, the field itself is so new, that there is no association or membership that requires its members to be at the top of their field. All of this makes proving that our client is truly extraordinary a creative task.

The Solution

Located in the Northeastern United States, we are geographically close to a host of world class universities, research laboratories and hospitals. We routinely work with their students, entrepreneurs and researchers who qualify for O-1 visas. Our clients are also members of teams that are creating innovative solutions, but they themselves may have just started working and are junior team members. Some are recent Ph.D. graduates or master’s degree holders who do not have proven track records yet.

We help by screening your current work track to determine if an O-1 is the best choice for you. And if a O-1 is your best choice, we help you obtain the O-1 visa. If you do not qualify for a O-1 at the time of the consultation, our attorneys guide you on how you should bolster your professional profiles so you will qualify for a O-1 visa later. We do this through lengthy, in-depth discussions with you to identify the criteria in your profile that makes you truly unique, and your professional contributions extraordinary and help you identify what you can do to achieve more recognition in your field.

We believe in filing successful petitions. And we strongly believe that it only takes an interested attorney, with the willingness to go the extra mile, to get your O-1 approved.

Above, we have described some of the common considerations while filing for a O-1 visa. As attorneys, we believe in helping our clients succeed. It is our privilege to help you live and work in the US.

Please contact us to discuss how we can make the O-1 visa process easy for you.

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