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Officially defined in the Immigration Act of 1990, O-1 visas are issued to immigrants who come to the United States and have exceptional skills in the fields of arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. To prove this they must also have sustained national or international acclaim. Applicants who have demonstrated high achievements in the motion picture or television industries can also qualify for O-1 visas.
In order to qualify, a petitioner will need a job offer from an American company. The company or an agent of the company who must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, via USCIS.
There are different categories of O visas: O-1A, for applicants in the field of sciences, education, business, or athletics and O-1B, for applicants with high achievements in the motion picture or television industries. The petitioners must be coming to work temporarily in the area of said extraordinary ability.
Some famous grantees of this type of visa category include Albert Einstein, David Beckham, and other Hollywood stars.
There is also category O-2, for those individuals who accompany O-1 artists or athletes and who are an “integral” or an “essential part” of the performance of an O-1 visa holder’s activities. Category O-3 is for spouses or children of O-1 or O-2 holders.
Recipients may be permitted to stay in the U.S. for an initial period of up to three years, or the time needed to complete the event or activity. Individuals can also apply for an extension of up to one year, to complete the event or activity.
In fiscal year 2019, there were a total of 163,342 “extraordinary” admissions, with 77% being O-1 VISA grantees. Click here to learn more about the different eligibility requirements.