Extraordinary Ability: What Do You Need to Get an O1 Visa?

The name Jennifer Leedham may not mean as much to you as say, Yao Ming or Dikembe Mutumbo, but like those two men, Jennifer immigrated to the United States to play basketball. In ten years, the British-born Jennifer went from being a freshman player on the Franklin Pierce University basketball team in New Hampshire to being the team’s head coach. But her American basketball career appears to be coming to an abrupt halt as her current H1-B visa has run its term while she awaits an O1 visa which will allow her to remain coaching in the US. In the meantime, it appears she will have to leave the country and return to her native Britain while she attempts to obtain an O1 visa.

How Does One Obtain an O1 Visa?

O1 visas are temporary work visas granted to individuals with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics (these are classified as O1-A visas). They are also granted to individuals with internationally recognized, extraordinary achievement in the television or motion picture industries (these are classified as O1-B visas). To obtain an O1 visa, the applicant must demonstrate extraordinary abilities and be coming to the U.S. to work in the field of those extraordinary abilities.

As stated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a U.S. employer or agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent, must file the petition for an O1 visa. An immigration attorney will work with the employer to complete this process.

For USCIS purposes, extraordinary ability is defined somewhat differently for different categories:

  • In the sciences, business, education, or athletics, it means that the person is one of small percentage at the top of the profession or field in which he or she excels.
  • In the field of the arts, extraordinary ability means distinction — a high level of achievement evidenced by skill and recognition substantially above the ordinary.
  • In the motion picture and television industries, the individual must demonstrate extraordinary achievement and be recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the field of motion pictures or television.

Unless you have received an internationally recognized prize, such as the Nobel Prize or an Academy Award, proving extraordinary ability is done by submitting evidence to support affirmative answers to at least 3 out of 8 questions presented by USCIS.

In addition, an applicant for an O1 visa must obtain a consultation letter (advisory opinion) from an appropriate peer group. This should be written by a person or group with expertise in your field, describing your achievements and ability.

Legal Assistance from an O1 Visa Attorney

Extraordinary ability can be difficult to prove to USCIS. If you are seeking an O1 visa for a foreign individual with extraordinary abilities, your need assistance from an experienced O1 visa attorney. Tashjian Law Group PC is recognized as one of the top immigration law groups in the country. Contact our office for a consultation. You can rely on us for quality representation you need to get a O1 visa.

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