O1 Visas: Temporary Worker Visas for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The O1 work visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to foreign nationals with extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement in the fields of athletics, business, education, the sciences, or the arts, including motion picture and television.

This visa is a nonimmigrant visa and only temporarily allows the applicant to work in the United States for a specified period of time. The O1 visa is sorted under the O visa   which also allows for the applicant’s assistants and family to be issued visas as seen in the list of O visas below:

  • O1A – for people with extraordinary abilities in athletics, business, education, or the sciences,
  • O1B – for people with extraordinary abilities in the arts, motion picture, and television,
  • O2 – for assistants accompanying the O1 visa holder,
  • O3 – for the immediate relatives of the O1 and O2 visa holders including children and their spouse.

Do take note that O1 visas are nonimmigrant visas that can only be used for temporary work and cannot be used to apply for permanent resident status. To become a lawful permanent resident of the US, you will need an immigrant visa.

If immigrating into the US is something you want to do, don’t hesitate to talk to one of our US immigration attorneys based in Shenandoah about the different types of immigrant visas including the different work visas, student visas, diversity visa lottery, business visas, investor visa, among others.


 O1 VisasTo be eligible to apply for the O1 visa, you should be able to prove that you are extraordinary in any of the fields listed above. This means that you have to be recognized as having risen to the top in your field and is considered to be an expert- being of national or international acclaim, having skill and recognition considered greater than normally encountered, and being a prominent character in your occupation.

On the other hand, O2 visas are given to assistants of the O1 visa holder that are considered integral and irreplaceable to the O1 visa’s work. This means that the assistant must have an exceptional experience with working with the O1 visa holder that cannot be replaced by anyone already in the US.


The following are the paperwork and documents that you will have to acquire to apply for an O1 visa and subsequently filed by your employer:

Evidence of Eligibility

First and foremost, your employer must be able to establish your extraordinary ability in the fields of athletics, business, education, the sciences, or the arts, including motion picture and television. There must be at least three different documentations which may include any of the following:

  • Media success in the field of the performing arts which can be quantified through box office receipts or entertainment sales,
  • Works displayed in an art exhibit or show,
  • Achievements published in major trade and media announcements,
  • Significant contributions to the sciences, arts, or other scholarly works,
  • Membership in prestigious organizations,
  • Expert-status in the respective field,
  • Advanced degrees in the field,
  • Receipt of a prize of national or international recognition.

Form I-129immi

The first form that needed to be filed at the USCIS office is Form I-129 or the Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker form. This must be filed through your requesting US employer, or US agent. This must be filed at least 45 days before the date of employment, but no sooner than one year before the start date.


A consultation or written advisory must be requested from any entities in the same field as you that can attest to your abilities and necessity. For instance, if you are a scientist planning to work on COVID vaccines, the advisory may be sourced from an official at the US CDC. 

The advisory should be submitted in its original form, including any watermarks or other features that prove the authenticity of the document. Submitting duplicates may raise concerns or doubts on the document and may be cause for delay.

You may be exempt from the consultation requirement if your employer or agent can prove that no one can write you an advisory, or if you have been admitted to the United States for the same service in the past two years. In the case of the latter, your sponsoring body will have to submit a waiver request and a copy of the consultation that was used in the last visa petition.


A written contract detailing the terms of employment signed by you and the petitioner must be submitted.


Your employer must also submit your itinerary for your stay in the country. This must include the date and times for events and activities. It must also be established that some events and activities will involve your extraordinary ability.

The O1 visa is only one of the many types of visas the USCIS offers. There are other similar employment-based US visas including the H1B visa and L1 visa. If you need help in applying for a visa, don’t hesitate to contact an immigration lawyer at the Law Office of  Luis Hess, PLLC, a US immigration law firm in Shenandoah.


The validity of an O visa depends on the amount of time you will need to do your work in the US plus a 10 day grace period before and after the intended work period. The initial period of stay is only up to three years but may be extended by up to one more year if necessary to finish events and activities.

To apply for an O visa extension to continue working on the same event or activity, your employer will need to file the following documents:

  • Form I-129
  • Copy of your Form I-94,
  • Your arrival and departure records,
  • An explanation of why you need to extend your stay.

Changing Employers

If you are working in the US with an O1 visa and wish to change employers, your new employer will have to file a new Form I-129. Your new employer may also have to submit evidence that you are no longer working for your old employer and are now working for him, as well as a request to extend your stay.

If you have any more questions about the US visa application process, don’t hesitate to talk to immigration at the law offices of Luis F. Hess, PLLC. Our Shenandoah immigration attorneys are knowledgeable of immigration laws and can help you with applying for a visa.