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Hiring on an O Visa

If your company wants to hire an exceptionally talented individual for a temporary period of time, then the “O” visa may be right for you. The O visa is a short-term, non-immigrant visa meant to provide entry to the US for international people of extraordinary ability in certain designated fields.

Generally, this type of visa is granted for up to 3 years and can be extended after that on an unlimited year-to-year basis. They can be issued relatively quickly compared to other immigration processes, and they give the bearer the right to work in the US for the O visa sponsor, though it must be in the same field as their identified talent. The O visa is an employer sponsored visa –  if you are interested in a self petition green card, download our free guide.

I group of architects look at a computer screen with an architectural rendering in the foreground.

The “O” visa – for employees with exceptional ability.

How Do You Qualify for an “O” visa?

But what qualifies as “extraordinary” ability? And what types of companies can use the O visa?

A person can qualify for an O-1A visa if they, as an individual, have demonstrated exceptional talent or achievement in science, business, education, or athletics. An O-1B visa applies if the achievements and skill are in the arts, motion picture, or television industries.

Documenting Extraordinary Ability for an O Visa

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) defines extraordinary ability for the industries of science, business, education, and athletics as meaning the individual has achieved a level of expertise that places them in the very top percentage of others in their field. So one of the best soccer players in the world or a leading, recognized expert on climate change could fulfill the O-1A criteria. The applicant must provide extensive documentation to prove certain requirements like having achieved a high salary or been recognized by other experts in the field. Winning a major award like the Nobel Prize or an Olympic medal can also qualify an applicant.

For the arts, an O-1B candidate must present evidence of distinction and critical acclaim or achievement. They must have skill far above ordinary people in their chosen artistic endeavor, and nominations for awards like an Oscar or Emmy can serve as evidence to that fact. “Art” is broadly defined by USCIS as “any field of creative activity” and can include more than just a director or main actor, but also makeup artists, set designers, and others who add important contributions to the endeavor.

The O visa can also be applied to the family of the individual with extraordinary ability, including a spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21. They can receive an O-3 visa to accompany the O-1 visa, but they cannot accept employment themselves in the US.

There is also a special designation for the support staff of those in the arts or athletics. An O-2 visa can accompany an athlete with an O-1A visa if they are integral to the activities of the athlete. An O-2 can accompany an artist with an O-1B visa if they are essential to the completion of production of the creative endeavor. Individuals can only receive the O-2 visa if their particular duty cannot be performed just as well by someone already in the US.

Petitions for O visas must be accompanied by a sponsorship of a prospective employer, alongside certain kinds of evidence of ability or acclaim. There are numerous forms of evidence that can be provided to prove an applicant has extraordinary ability, and the process can be very subjective, so it is important that you consult with an immigration attorney to ensure your O visa employee has the best chance to be granted access to the US. If your company wants to utilize the best international talent in the world, give us a call to learn more about the O visa.