Nonimmigrant Visa for Individuals of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The O category accommodates a wide range of talented or acclaimed foreign nationals who may not be eligible for other work-related nonimmigrant categories, such as the H or L categories, or who may wish to avoid them. This category is intended for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. The O classification is a useful and flexible alternative to the H1-B program because it does not require wage maintenance, there is no overall time limit in the classification, and there are no numerical caps.

The basic requirements for individuals with extraordinary business ability are as follows:

  1. Only a person who is one of the small percentage of individuals who have risen tothe very top of his field qualifies for an O nonimmigrant visa. This “extraordinary” ability must be demonstrated by sustained international or national acclaim and recognition. You would have to show that you have received a major, internationally-recognized award, or at least three of the following: (a) receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field of endeavor; (b) membership in associations in your field which require outstanding achievement of their members (as judged by national or international experts in your field); (c) published material about you in professional or major trade publications or major media concerning your work; (d) participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in your field; (e) scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in your field; (f) authorship of scholarly articles in your field in professional journals or other media; (g) employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation; and (h) high salary or other remuneration.

  2. You must prove that you would be coming to the United States to work in your area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

The initial period of stay under the O nonimmigrant category may be approved for the time necessary to complete the event or activity—i.e., scientific project, conference, convention, lecture series, business project—for which you would be admitted, up to a period of three years. Extensions may be granted in increments of up to one year to continue or complete the same event or activity for which you would be admitted.

One drawback of the O nonimmigrant category is that a petition may be approved only after your would-be United States employer consults with peer groups, labor organizations or management organizations regarding the nature of the work you would be hired to do and your qualifications for the position.

Your family members—i.e., your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age—would be admitted under the O-3 category. Neither your spouse nor your children would be able to work in the United States unless they independently meet the requirements of the O category.

Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in this letter, or if you would like my assistance in applying for any of the nonimmigrant visas listed herein, please call my office and schedule an appointment with our attorneys.