Common O-1 Visa Questions

Who is this category set aside for and what is the general standard?

The O-1 visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, athletics, movies, or television.

To meet the standards of this visa you must show that you have extraordinary ability (the definition depends on the sub-category you fall within) and that you have received sustained national or international acclaim.

How many O-1 visas are available every year and when can I submit an application?

Unlike the H1B visa, there are no limits on the number of O-1 visas available every year and you may submit an application at anytime.

Is there a minimum prevailing wage or a specific start-date that I need to be aware of?

No, unlike the H1B visa, there is no minimum prevailing wage or specific start date that you need to be aware of.

However, you cannot submit an O-1 visa application more than six months in advance of your start-date.

What is the visa duration?

The O-1 visa can be requested for up to a maximum of three years upon each filing. Unlike the H1B visa or L-1 Visa, there is technically no maximum period that an individual can be in O-1 status.

How far in advance of the start-date may I submit my O-1 petition?

You may submit an O-1 petition up to one year in advance of the date you would like the O-1 to take effect.

However, most people end up submitting within 3-6 months of the start date.

What are some common visa O-1 professions?

Although not exclusive, the following are some examples of common professions that may be eligible to use the O-1:

artists; entertainers; models; chefs; business professionals; doctors; scientists; actors/actresses; professors; directors; set designers; choreographers; orchestrates; coaches; jugglers; arrangers; costume designers; make-up artists; stage technicians; animal trainers; musicians; fine artists; visual arts; culinary arts; specialized mechanices; designers; and technical and creative personnel.

What does extraordinary ability mean for an artist?

Extraordinary ability in the arts means “distinction”. This requires the artist to establish that he/she is “prominent in his or her field”.

How do you prove “distinction” in the arts (O-1B)?

To prove distinction in the arts, a potential O-1 artist must provide evidence that they are recognized as being prominent in their field, either by showing that they have been nominated or have received a significant national or international award or prize, OR with evidence that they meet at least 3 of the following:

  • Has performed or will perform services as a lead or starring participant in a production or event that has a distinguished reputation as shown by critical reviews, ads, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
  • Has received national or international recognition for achievements through critical reviews via published materials by or about the foriegn national in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, websites, etc.;
  • Has performed in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by media articles, testimonials, letters of recommendation, website reviews, and other similar items;
  • Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success;
  • Has achieved significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, recognized experts; or
  • Has commanded or will command a high salary or other compensation.

How do you prove extraordinary ability for a scientist, educator, business person, or athlete (O-1A)?

Proving extraordinary ability for a scientist, educator, business person, or athlete is generally more rigorous than it is for artists.

For this category you want to be able to show that the individual has obtained “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavour.”

Extraordinary ability here is shown by providing evidence either of the foreign national’s receipt of a “major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize”, or documentation of at least 3 of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes/awards for excellence in the field;
  • Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien;
  • Participation on a panel or as a judge of the work of others in teh same or an allied field of specialization;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  • Current or previous employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or
  • Past or proffered high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

Is there a separate sub-category for individuals in motion picture or TV production?

Yes, these individuals are technically in the “O-1B” category and they must have “a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement” that can be evidenced through extensive documentation.

“Extraordinary achievement” here means a “very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or TV industry evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered”. The criteria used to judge whether or not an individual meets the requirements is the same as that used for the arts, except the standard is thought to be slightly higher.

What if the above criteria does not apply for the different categories?

If the above criteria does not clearly apply to your case, you can use “comparable evidence”.

It should be noted that there is some flexibility with the O-1 through creative advocacy. You should not let the term “extraordinary ability” scare you away.

I’ve heard that I’ll need recommendation letters for my O-1 application. What’s this all about?

Recommendation letters play an important role in the O-1 application. They prove that you have, in the government’s words, “Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which you are engaged.”

According to the USCIS, these letters should “clearly indicate the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of your achievements.” This video will help you understand fully what that means, and how an effective recommendation letter should ultimately look.

Who should you ask to be a recommender?

The recommenders can be from anywhere in the world – they do not need to be from or in the United States. They also do not need to be working directly in your field. They should, however, be qualified to testify to your extraordinary ability through their work in a related field or through their in-depth knowledge of your work and career. Former or current clients, bosses, collaborators, peers, curators, friends – all of these are excellent recommenders.

It is generally a good idea to restrict the number of teachers or professors to 1 or 2, though; the government is more interested in your professional experience than your education.

How many letters should you get?

Though there is no official requirement for how many letters to include in an O-1 application, we recommend acquiring 6 to 10 letters. Rule of thumb: the quality of the content is more important than the quantity of letters.

***For a better idea of what a recommendation for an O-1 visa might look like, please watch the following VIDEO (see the last page for a sampleletter):

How should the final letters be presented?

The letters should be printed on letterhead, dated, and signed by the recommender. They do not need to have original signatures – photocopies and scans of the originals are fine. It helps to submit a resume, “about page” printout, or bio for each recommender corresponding with their letter.

How long does it take to prepare an O-1 application?

The most time consuming part of any O-1 visa application is collecting all of the required supporting material and putting together the application. Due to the complex nature of an O-1, material must often be collected from many different sources, such as magazines, online references, third parties, individuals writing recommendation letters, professional organizations, and other similar sources.

It can often take weeks to several months to properly put together an O-1 application.

How long does it take to take to receive a response from USCIS after submitting an O-1 petition?

The wait-time trends over the years to receive a response on an O-1 petition have fluctuated, but currently, in the year 2013, we are seeing USCIS respond as soon as 2-4 weeks after submission of an O-1 petition, which is quite fast for any visa petition.

If you want a guarantee of a quick response from USCIS, you may file your petition via premium processing for a 15 calendar day turnaround.

However, premium processing entails an additional filing fee of $1225. It’s important to note that a “response” is not always an approval, as it could be a request for more evidence in connection with the petition.

Who can sponsor an O-1?

An O-1 sponsor can take a variety of forms: a United States-based employer, a United States-based agent, a United States-based agent-as-employer, or a foreign employer through a United States agent. In all cases, the sponsor should have some sort of connection to your field of endeavor.

What if I won’t be classically employed by a company or organization, but rather I will work with an agent?

In this scenario you will definitely need an itinerary detailing the the nature of the events that you will be engaged in over the period of time that you are seeking the O-1 approval.

Furthermore, the O-1 agent must provide a contractual agreement between the agent and the foreign national which specifies the wage offered and the other terms and conditions of employment.

How does the process work with an agent?

A person or company in business as an agent may file a petition on behalf of an O-1 individual involving multiple engagements or employers as the representative of both the employers and the foreign national. In such a scenario, a complete itinerary of the event or events must be included with the application.

Can I petition for myself?

No, an O-1 visa must be submitted by an agent or employer on behalf of the extraordinary ability individual. A foreign national cannot self-petition himself or herself for the visa.

What are the O-1 services that your law firm provides in connection with the preparation of an O-1 visa application?

As each O-1 case is unique, so is its preparation. Nonetheless, in general terms, our services will include the following for most O-1 filings:

  • Evaluate applicant’s background, accomplishments, and career experience as it pertains to O-1 eligibility
  • Analyze potential scenarios and application/filing strategies
  • Clarify sponsorship options
  • Advise & provide assistance with collecting required documentation & information
  • Assist with & advise on the drafting of detailed letters of recommendation
  • Perform in-depth research of applicant’s career & field in order to draft thorough support letter & other documentation
  • Communicate with labor unions/peer groups in order to obtain necessary consultation letters
  • Advise & assist with the drafting of a contract/representation agreement
  • Advise & assist with the drafting of an itinerary
  • Complete all required USCIS forms
  • Organize & compile evidence & documents into a comprehensive case with a detailed application digest (usually between 100-300 pages)
  • Ensure all aspects of the case are legally compliant
  • Submit O-1 application to USCIS
  • Monitor the filing & communicate with USCIS when necessary
  • Maintain client correspondence, with regular reminders & updates & availability for emergency meetings & email & phone check-ins
  • Maintain intimate knowledge of shifting O-1 visa requirements & procedures
  • Provide post-approval legal advice & guidance

I don’t live in New York. Can you still work with me?

Absolutely. We work with foreign nationals and employers from all across the United States and throughout the world. Whether we meet in person, over the phone, or using the internet, our strong communication will be an asset to your case.

What are the filing fees?

The O-1 visa petition fee is $460. Premium processing, which is optional, entails an additional filing fee of $1,225. The legal fee depends on the nature of the case and can only be quoted after discussing the matter over the phone or in person.

Who can pay the fees?

Either the foreign applicant or the agent or employer can pay the fees.

What are the O-1 Visa Lawyer legal fees for representation?

Give us a call and we will be happy to discuss our fees with you. Rest easy, Lightman Law Firm prides itself in offering the highest level of service at an affordable FLAT rate. You will never experience any pressure or obligation to work with us.

Put our O-1 Visa Attorney experience to work for you.

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