THE O-1 VISA IS A TEMPORARY WORK VISA AVAILABLE TO FOREIGN NATIONALS WHO HAVE “EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY IN THE SCIENCES, ARTS, EDUCATION, BUSINESS, OR ATHLETICS.“
The O nonimmigrant classification is commonly referred to as:
- O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
- O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
- O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance. For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1
- O-3: individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s
An applicant previously on a J-1 may obtain an O-1 visa without a J-1 Waiver. Although a waiver would still be needed when you change from O-1 to H-1B or permanent residency, the O-1 is a valuable visa that can be used as temporary solution only.
O-1 Application Process
An O-1 visa applicant must be petitioned by a U.S. company, or a U.S. agent. O-1 applicants may not self-petition. The petitioner must submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the following documentary evidence:
Peer group advisory. A written advisory opinion from a peer group with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability. Peer group must be “US Peer.”
Consultation letters: If the O-1 petition is for an individual with extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television, the consultation must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability. If the petitioner can demonstrate that an appropriate peer group, including a labor organization, does not exist, the decision will be based on the evidence of record. A consultation may be waived for an alien with extraordinary ability in the field of arts if the alien seeks readmission to perform similar services within 2 years of the date of a previous consultation. Petitioners should submit a waiver request and a copy of the previous consultation with the petition.
Contract between petitioner and beneficiary, which must contain the offer from the employer and the acceptance terms from the alien. Oral contracts are also accepted by USCIS but evidence of its terms shall be submitted.
Itinerary. The petitioner must establish that there are events or activities in the beneficiary’s field of extraordinary ability for the validity period requested, e.g. an itinerary for a tour or a series of events.
Evidence for O-1 Visa Petitions
To demonstrate international recognition and extraordinary ability in the business or sciences, the O-1 visa applicant may provide evidence that he or she is the winner of an internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or by demonstrating at least three of the following:
- Internationally or nationally recognized prizes or awards;
- Published material about your work;
- Membership in an association that requires members to have outstanding achievement;
- Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
- Authorship of scholarly articles published in any type of major media or professional journals;
- High salary or any other type of compensation;
- Participation on a panel, or as a judge for other people’s works;
- Evidence of past employment for organizations or establishments that have a high reputation.
To demonstrate international recognition and extraordinary ability in the arts and motion pictures and television, the O-1 visa applicant may also provide evidence that he/she is the winner of an internationally recognized award, such as an Academy Award or a Grammy, or by demonstrating at least three of the following:
- Lead or starring role for productions or events with distinguished reputations;
- National or International recognition demonstrated by published material about your work;
- Lead, starring, or critical role for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputation;
- Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success;
- Significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field;
- High salary in relation to others in the field.
If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien’s occupation, the applicant may submit comparable evidence in order to establish his or her eligibility. One piece of evidence may can satisfy multiple criteria.
Advantages of the O-1 Visa for doctors
If doctors meet the high extraordinary ability requirements, the O-1 visa has advantages to the J-1 visa and H-1B visa.
- If the doctor applies from abroad he or she will not be subject to the two-year home residency requirement. Thus, doctors in the U.S. on a J-1 visa may file for an O-1 visa at the US Embassy and re-enter the United States without obtaining a waiver;
- Unlike the H-1B visa there is no prevailing wage requirement;
- The O-1 visa is not subject to a cap. With only 65,000 H-1B visas available per fiscal year, the O-1 visa is an attractive option to doctors who are interested in pursuing employment in private practice;
- Because extensions of O-1 status may be granted in one-year increments without limitation, the doctor need not worry about a 6-year limit as with the H-1B visas;
- As the requirements for O-1 status parallels those of the first preference employment based immigrant classification, this category may become a viable option for those doctors who obtain O-1 classification. Given the retrogression of other employment-based categories, the possibility of obtaining the first preference category can be appealing.
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