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.
- Aliens in the sciences, education, business, and athletics
With regard to the first group, the INS rules provide that only a person who is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of his or her field of endeavor qualifies for this type of extraordinary abilty.To qualify for O-1 status, the alien must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise.
- Aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts and aliens of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or TV industries
With regard to the second group of O-1 aliens, the INS rules provide that the alien must be recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.
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 employer should obtain an advisory opinion from a peer group (preferably from a labor organization) or show that the employer needs expeditious handling. The requirement of consultation with a peer group or an appropriate labor union will be waived when a consultation has taken place within the prior two years with regard to a previous admission to render similar services.
- The employer must obtain approval from the INS of an O petition supported by the advisory opinion.
Length of Stay
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:
- They must enter solely for the purpose of assisting in the O-1's performance.
- They must be an integral part of the actual performance and have critical skills and experience with the O-1 alien that are not of general nature and that cannot be performed by other individuals.
- They must have a foreign residence that they have no intention of abandoning. This requirement is not imposed for O-1 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:
- based on a pre-existing longstanding working relationship or
- because significant production (including pre- and post-production work) will take place both inside and outside of the U.S. and the continuing participation of the alien is essential to the successful completion of the production.
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
- Form I-129 and O- Supplement.
- Written employment contract or written summary of an oral contract.
- College and university diplomas.
- Employer's written statement explaining the nature of the employment, the specific events the alien will be participating in, and why his/her participation is needed.
- Consultation report.
- Certificates showing prizes or awards won.
- Certificates of membership in associations.
- Copies of articles published about the alien and his/her work.
- Publications written by the alien.
- Letters from leaders in the alien's field explaining his/her significant accomplishments.
- Letters from previous employers showing the alien's salary and explaining his/her importance to them.
Step two: Application
- OF-forms (available at U.S. consulates abroad)
- Notice showing approval of the visa petition.
- Valid passport for the alien and each accompanying relative.
- One passport-type photo of the alien and each accompanying relative.
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.
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It does not substitute for the services of an immigration attorney in a specific case.
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