Nearly 3,000,000 undocumented immigrants reside in California, with the city of Los Angeles housing one of the largest populations of unauthorized immigrants in the entire country. While there are many undocumented immigrants who call Los Angeles and Southern California home, there are also those who have immigrated to the United States through the proper channels which include acquiring multiple visa types. The O-1 Visa, is designed to help those with extraordinary abilities – such as achievements in business or outstanding performance in film or television - to enter and work within the United States lawfully.
What Is an O-1 Nonimmigrant Visa?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) describes the O-1 nonimmigrant visa as intended for the “individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or…. extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry….”
There are two different types of 0-1 nonimmigrant visas:
- O-1A nonimmigrant visa: Perhaps the most well-known type of O visa, the O-1A visa is available to immigrants with exceptional skill in sciences, business, education or athletics. Important to receiving an O-1A visa is proving an immigrant’s ability in their field – through publications, references, awards, or other achievements. To qualify for an O-1A visa an immigrant must prove that they are one of a very small percentage of people in the world who are as capable in their field and that they will be entering the United States to temporarily work in that field.This category does not include those with extraordinary abilities in the arts or the motion picture or television industry.
- O-1B nonimmigrant visa: Not unlike the O-1A visa, O-1B visas are given to immigrants with extraordinary ability, but here in the fields of the arts, motion picture, or television. O-1B visa applicants should be coming to the United States to practice their art or work in film or television temporarily whether as actors, producers, models or musicians. To apply for an O-1B visa, immigrants should be able to prove that their work is distinct, well-known, or cutting-edge.
Nonimmigrant Visas for 0-1 Visa Holders’ Families and Assistants
In addition to the two O-1 nonimmigrant visa types, there are also visas that apply to the essential assistants or partners of O-1 immigrants as well as their immediate family who wish to accompany them as they travel to the U.S.
- O-2 nonimmigrant visa: O-2 visas are reserved for the colleagues and assistants of O-1 immigrants. O-1A visa applicants should be able to prove that their O-2 partner’s assistance is an “integral part” of their work. Similarly, an O-1B applicant should demonstrate that their O-2 partner is “essential” to their art or performance. Additionally, the O-2 immigrant should have unique skills and an established relationship with the O-1 applicant that could not be fulfilled by a U.S. citizen.
- O-3 nonimmigrant visa: The final type of O visa, O-3 visas are given to the immediate family, spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 immigrants.
What Is Meant By ‘Extraordinary Ability’?
‘Extraordinary ability’ is a tough standard, and one that may not be clear to an individual unfamiliar with immigration laws. USCIS states that the extraordinary ability must be sustained or acknowledged by international or national acclaim, and means that an individual has a phenomenal level of skill in their field that others do not possess.
For arts, extraordinary ability means ‘distinction’. Like extraordinary ability in other fields, this is substantiated by recognition or acclaim above that which is ordinary.
Understanding the O-1 Visa: Advantages & Disadvantages
An O-1 visa does not give an individual who wants to travel to the U.S. permission to stay within the U.S. indefinitely. Rather, an O-1 visa is granted for the amount of time that is necessary for the individual to achieve or accomplish the activity for which the purpose of the visa is intended, up to three years’ time (extensions are available in one-year increments).
While this may be disadvantageous depending upon one’s circumstances, there are a number of benefits associated with the O-1 visa, including:
- O-1 visas are relatively easy to obtain in a short amount of time (assuming the applicant meets the criteria).
- The visa allows the immigrant and any family members who also hold visas the ability to travel in and out of the U.S. for the duration of the visa’s validity.
- As mentioned above, a benefit of the O-1 visa is that the visa holder’s spouse and children are permitted to travel with them to the United States if they obtain O-3 visas.
A potential downside, however, is that the spouse and children are not allowed to work within the United States on an O-1 visa. Further, the O-1 visa holder cannot change jobs without applying for a new visa.
How to Apply for an O-1 Visa
The application for an O-1 visa, like all other visa types, can be complex and detail-specific. The application begins with the completion of the I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. In addition to this petition, other requirements include:
- Consultation. A consultation refers to an advisory opinion from the applicant’s peer group which speaks to the applicant’s extraordinary ability. In some cases, this requirement may be waived.
- Contract. A valid contract between the applicant and the employer or agent (the party for whom the applicant will be employed) must be submitted.
- Itineraries. An itinerary, which outlines events and the date of events that the applicant will be participating in throughout the time for which the visa is being requested.
- Agents. An O-1 visa applicant cannot travel to the United States without an agent. The agent may be the employer of the applicant, or a representative of the employer.
Cost for an O-1 Immigration Visa
The first step in most visa applications is to fill up Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker), which costs $460. This document is what petitioners use to reason out to the USCIS why the O-1 visa beneficiary is eligible to stay and work in the U.S.
Your employer must file the O-1 petition with the USCIS within a year before the first day of the beneficiary’s employment. You can avoid delays by following the recommended schedule, which is to file it 45 days before the date of work.
There may be other expenses in obtaining your O-1 immigration visa.
To prove that the applicant has extraordinary abilities and outstanding achievements, they must either possess a one-time international award (such as a Nobel Prize or a Grammy Award) or satisfy at least three criteria in a long list of criteria provided by the USCIS.
Some of these criteria include having a high salary from services related to your expertise, having a nationally or internationally recognized award, being a member of an institution known for a distinguished reputation in the field of endeavor and being featured in major media and trade publications. You must have documents that support the case that you satisfy some of these criteria.
The USCIS holds the right to either approve or deny your case. It can also ask for additional evidence (RFE). It is worth mentioning here that if the USCIS issues an RFE, your 15-day processing window will no longer be valid.
In addition to the processing fee, you are also required to file a form DS-160 which will cost you $190 for each applicant you file the visa for.
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Work with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney
If you are of extraordinary ability, traveling to the United States may be imperative to the development of your skills. Because of the complex nature of the visa application process, it is highly recommended that you work with an experienced Los Angeles lawyer to help with obtaining a O-1 Visa. At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our talented immigration lawyers will guide you through the system to alleviate unnecessary delays or complications. Contact us today for your consultation.
As immigration lawyers in Los Angeles, we specialize in a complete spectrum of services pertaining to immigration, visa and citizenship. Regardless of how simple or complex your unique situation may be, you can place complete trust in our achieving the most favorable outcome possible.