O-1 – Extraordinary Ability

O-1 – Extraordinary Ability

by SCwpadmin

O-1 – Extraordinary Ability 

Foreign nationals who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics may be eligible for O-1 status.  Under the law “extraordinary ability” means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentages who has risen to the very top of the field of his or her endeavor.  Those in motion pictures and television who can demonstrate a record of “extraordinary achievement” may also be eligible for O-1. 


To demonstrate they are individuals of extraordinary ability, foreign nationals must be able to demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in their field by presenting evidence in certain categories.  Specifically, they can present evidence of having received a major, international award.  Absent a major international award, beneficiaries must present evidence of at least three of the following criteria:

  • Receipt of a lesser nationally or internationally recognized prize or award for excellence in the field.
  • Membership in an association which requires outstanding achievement of its members as judged by experts in the field.
  • Published materials about the individual in professional journals, major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence of the individual’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or a related field.
  • Evidence of the individual’s original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.
  • Evidence of the individual’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field in professional or major trade publications.
  • Evidence of the display of the individual’s work in artistic exhibitions or showcases.
  • Evidence that the individual has performed a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence that the individual has commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services.
  • Evidence of commercial success in the performing arts.

If these enumerated categories do not readily apply to the individual’s occupation, then other evidence can be submitted.  USCIS has recognized that for applicants in categories other than science and art different types of evidence are required. In preparing O-1 petitions for business people or professionals, it is important to submit letters from qualified individuals who are familiar with the beneficiary’s achievements who can attest to his or her accomplishments in the field. Evidence in these types of cases will vary according to the particular occupation.

The beneficiary must also be seeking to work in the U.S. in the field in which he or she has obtained extraordinary ability/achievement.


A U.S. employer or agent can file an O-1 petition on behalf of a foreign national.  Timing to prepare an O-1 varies greatly depending on the field of endeavor, and amount of evidence of extraordinary ability.  Similarly, post-filing adjudication time also varies greatly.  Premium processing is available for O-1 petitions. 

One can obtain an original O-1 for up to three years.  The O-1 can then be renewed indefinitely in one-year increments. 

Frequently Asked Questions about O-1 Visas

Can Family Members Accompany an O-1?

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may apply for O-3 status in order to accompany the O-1 individual to the U.S.  However, spouses and children are ineligible for employment.

Can the Individual Work for More than One Employer?

If the individual wishes to work for more than one employer at the same time, each employer must file a separate petition with USCIS.

Is O-1 a status of non-immigrant intent?

While an O-1 individual must show that he or she will be in the U.S. temporarily, it is not required that the individual maintain a home abroad.  Additionally, the approval of an immigrant petition alone is not sufficient grounds to deny an O-1.

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