O1 Visas

Many people believe that they must marry a U.S. citizen or have family in the U.S. to immigrate to the U.S. However, although being married to a U.S. citizen can certainly simplify matters, there are other ways of living in the U.S. Not everyone wants to live permanently in the U.S. For those that want to pursue their careers in the U.S., a nonimmigrant O1 visa may be appropriate.

An O1 visa are for persons of extraordinary ability or achievement. Within that visa category, there are separate subcategories: 1. O1A, individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics; 2. O1B, individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or achievement in the motion picture and television industry; 3. O2, individuals who accompany the O1 artist or athlete; and 4. the O1 or O2 visa holders’ spouse or children.

Because this visa is a nonimmigrant visa, the applicant must show that they will be returning to their native country and their stay in the U.S. is only temporary to conduct activities related to  their extraordinary abilities. However, these visas are granted for up to three years, and renewable for three year increments thereafter. Generally speaking, one must also have an employer or sponsor. As a practical matter, an employer may not be feasible for an O visa holder. For example, a movie producer would not necessarily have an employer, but perhaps an agency that he is working with on a movie that can attest to his planned activities. Therefore, this sponsor must be the person who signs off on the petition to bring this individual of extraordinary ability to the U.S.

Having a sponsor or employer is just one of the many steps that you must take to obtain an O visa. Depending on the industry, you may even need an advisory opinion from a peer group or labor organization. For example, for actors, the Screen Actors Guild would attest to the applicant’s membership in the organization. Material changes to the O1 visa holders’ employment or itinerary in the U.S. could also jeopardize eligibility for an O1 visa.

There are many different prongs to the O1 visa, but it is a unique visa that allows persons to live in the U.S. and carry out their careers. It is important to talk to a knowledgeable attorney that can help you through this arduous process.