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O : Extraordinary Ability

The O category is reserved for:

  • Aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1),
  • the artist’s or athlete’s support staff (O-2), and
  • the O-1’s spouse and/or children (O-3).

To qualify, the alien must be coming to the U.S. to work in his or her area of extraordinary ability or achievement. There is currently no annual cap on O visas.

O-1 Extraordinary Ability (Science, Education, Business, or Athletics)

The O-1 category applies to aliens coming temporarily who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television).

Petition Document Requirements
A U.S. employer should file the petition (Form I-129) with:

  • A written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the group with expertise in the alien's area of ability;
  • A copy of any written contract between the employer and the alien or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed;
  • Evidence that the alien has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least three of the following:
    • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
    • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized international experts;
    • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the alien and his work in the field for which classification is sought;
    • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
    • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought;
    • A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
    • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought;
    • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.


If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien's occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the alien's eligibility.

O-1 Extraordinary Ability (Arts, Motion Picture, or Television)

The O-1 category also applies to aliens who are coming temporarily and have extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

Petition Document Requirements

A U.S. employer should file the I-129 petition with:

  • A written advisory opinion, describing the alien’s ability as follows:
    • If the petition is based on the alien's extraordinary ability in the arts, the consultation must be from a peer group (including labor organizations) in the alien's field of endeavor; or a person or persons designated by the group with expertise in the alien's area of ability.
    • If the petition is based on the alien's extraordinary achievements in the motion picture or television industry, separate consultations are required from a labor and a management organization with expertise in the alien's field of endeavor.
  • A copy of any written contract between the employer and the alien or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed;
  • Evidence the alien has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director's Guild Award, or evidence of at least three of the following:
    • Performed or will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements;
    • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
    • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications;
    • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author's authority, expertise and knowledge of the alien's achievements;
    • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence; or


If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien's occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the alien's eligibility.

O-2 Support Personnel

The O-2 category applies to aliens accompanying an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance. This person would be acting as an essential and integral part of the artistic or athletic performance of an O-1 artist or athlete because he or she performs support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.

Petition Document Requirements

The petition must be filed by a U.S. employer in conjunction with the filing of the O-1 alien petition and must be filed with:

  • A written advisory opinion.
    • If the O-2 petition is for an alien accompanying an O-1 alien of extraordinary ability in the arts, the opinion must be from a labor organization with expertise in the skill area involved.
    • If the O-2 petition is for an alien accompanying an O-1 alien of extraordinary achievement in the field of motion picture or television, the opinion must be from a labor organization and a management organization with expertise in the skill area involved.
  • Evidence of the current essentiality, critical skills, and experience of the O-2 alien with the O-1 alien, and that the alien has substantial experience utilizing the critical skills and essential support services for the O-1. In the case of a specific motion picture or television production, the evidence shall establish that significant production has taken place outside the U.S., and will take place inside the U.S. and that the continuing participation of the alien is essential to the successful completion of the production.

O-3 Dependents

Spouses and minor children (dependents) of O-1’s are admitted under O-3 status with the same restrictions as the principal. They may not work in the U.S. under this classification.

Extensions of Stay and Visa Renewals

O extensions can be granted in one-year increments in order to permit the O alien to complete the business listed in the initial petition. There is no maximum limit on stay for O aliens, and, therefore, the main issue on an extension of stay is whether the O alien will be working in the same business or activity listed in the initial petition. If the alien will be engaging in the same activity specified in the original petition but additional time is required to complete the business, it is clear that an extension of stay is appropriate; for example, the alien may have been admitted to work on a scientific project which can not be completed in the time frame initially anticipated and provided for in the petition. In such case, a petition extension should be granted.

Extensions for persons out-of-status

Persons who are out-of-status at the time of filing the extension application, and who cannot justify a late filing of an extension request, must apply for an O nonimmigrant visa abroad. Furthermore, if the applicant "overstayed" his or her period of authorized admission, the applicant will be required to submit his or her visa application at the consulate located in the country of the alien's nationality. A third country consulate will not process the application unless the alien can establish "extraordinary circumstances."