The O Visa

O visas are useful for highly talented or acclaimed foreign individuals who may not qualify in other work-related nonimigrant categories such as H, L, or J, or wish to avoid those categories for various reasons.

They are especially helpful to artists, athletes, entertainers, and business people without professional degrees.

The O category is set aside for aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1), certain aliens accompanying or assisting those aliens (O-2), and their family members (O-3).

1. The O-1 Category: Individuals of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

Who is eligible ?

There are two different standards for the O-1 category: An extremely high one for aliens in the sciences, education, business, and athletics and a much more rigorous one for individual aliens and aliens of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or TV industries.

Additionally, two preliminary steps must be taken by the employer before an alien worker can obtain an O visa to enter the U.S.:

The period of stay is tied to the time necessary to provide for the event or group of events for which the nonimmigrant is admitted.The INS rules state that the initial period of stay cannot exceed three years. Extensions to continue/complete the same events may be obtained for one year at a time.


First, the U.S. employer (petitioner) must file an O petition with the INS in order to obtain permission to employ an O alien for a temporary period. As supporting documentation the employer must submit with the petition a specific itinerary with dates, names, addresses, and work locations for the alien with the petition. One or more contracts clarifying the relationships among alien, petitioner and job sites should be submitted. After having received the approval of the petition, the foreign national or nationals must take the petition approval notice to a U.S. consulate abroad to apply for O visas permitting their admission to the U.S.

2. The O-2 Category: Accompanying and Assisting Aliens

The O-2 category is set aside for aliens who will accompany and assist in the artistic or athletic performance of an O-1 alien and aliens who will accompany and assist an O-1 alien on a specific motion picture or television production.

With regard to aliens who will accompany and assist in the artistic or athletic performance of an O-1 alien, an exacting standard is established for the admission of these aliens:

The alien who will accompany and assist an O-1 alien on a specific motion picture or television production must have skills and experience with the O-1 alien that are not of a general nature and that are critical:

The O petition may be filed for multiple O-2 aliens (but not O-1 aliens) when they are assisting the same O-1 alien for the same events or performances, during the same period of time in the same location. All O-2 aliens included in one petition must seek their O-2 visas at the same U.S. consulate abroad.

3. The O-3 Category: Family members of O Aliens

The family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) of the O-1 alien are classified in the O-3 category. They cannot engage in employment in the U.S. unless they are independently qualified.

Forms and Documents Checklist for the O-1 visa

Step One: Petition



Additional Documents

Step two: Application



NOTE: This is the process of obtaining a visa for a person who is outside the United States. A person who is inside the U.S. may be allowed to change from his/her current visa to an O visa.

For in-depth information, contact Capriotti & Associates to schedule a consultation appointment.

TM 10/98

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