The O-1 Visa is a special nonimmigrant visa category designed for individuals with extraordinary achievement or ability in their respective fields. If you possess exceptional talent or have achieved remarkable national or international recognition in areas such as science, arts, education, business, or athletics, the O-1 Visa could be a pathway for you to work legally in the USA. In this Ultimate Guide, we will explore all the key aspects of the O-1 Visa, guiding you through the application process and providing valuable information on eligibility criteria and related considerations.

General Eligibility

To be eligible for the O-1 Visa, you are required to provide substantial evidence that showcases your extraordinary achievement or ability in your field. This evidence plays a critical role in demonstrating your qualifications for the visa. There are several types of evidence that can support your application:

  • Major internationally recognized awards: If you have received prestigious awards or honors in your field on an international level, such as a Nobel Prize, an Academy Award, or an Olympic medal, these accolades serve as strong evidence of your extraordinary ability.
  • Memberships in distinguished organizations: Being a member of esteemed professional associations or organizations related to your field can demonstrate your exceptional standing and recognition within your industry. Examples include membership in the National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society.
  • Publications and scholarly contributions: Providing evidence of your significant contributions to scholarly articles or publications, major trade publications, research papers, or books can establish your expertise and impact in your field. This may include citations of your work by other experts or references to your research in academic journals.
  • Media recognition and critical acclaim: If your work has received substantial coverage in major media, such as interviews, features, or positive reviews in prominent publications or broadcast networks, it highlights your prominence and public national or international recognition. In the arts, you must showcase your outstanding achievements in the motion picture or television industry as a lead or starring participant in projects of sustained national or international acclaim.
  • Evidence of high salary or remuneration: Demonstrating that you have commanded a high salary or received other significantly high remuneration for your services can further support your claim of extraordinary ability or evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation. This can be accomplished by providing employment contracts, tax records, or other official documentation.

It is important to remember that while these examples illustrate the types of evidence that can strengthen your application, other reliable evidence may also be accepted, depending on your field of expertise. Additionally, you must clearly articulate in your application how your extraordinary ability or achievement directly relates to the work you will be undertaking in the United States and how your presence in the country will significantly benefit your field.

By presenting a comprehensive portfolio of evidence showcasing your exceptional abilities and achievements, you enhance your chances of obtaining this visa and gaining the opportunity to contribute your expertise in the United States.

O-1A and O-1B subcategories

O-1A Visa: If you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, the O-1A Visa is for you. This category covers professions such as researchers, scientists, professors, business executives, or professional athletes. To qualify, you must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in your field of expertise.

O-1B Visa: On the other hand, if you have extraordinary ability in the arts or have obtained significant recognition and a high level of achievement in the motion picture or television industry, the O-1B Visa is the appropriate subcategory for you. This includes actors, musicians, singers, dancers, directors, producers, and other artists. To be eligible, you must showcase a high level of achievement and distinction in your field, evidenced through critical acclaim, leading roles, notable performances, or awards.

Application Process for an O-1 Visa

The application process consists of several important steps that must be followed diligently. The first step is to secure a job offer or engagement from a US employer who will act as your sponsor. This employer plays a critical role in the application process as they are responsible for filing a petition on your behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The petition filed by your employer should include a comprehensive collection of supporting documents that demonstrate your extraordinary ability or achievement in your field. These documents are vital in substantiating your eligibility. Examples of supporting documents may include letters of recommendation from industry experts attesting to your exceptional skills and contributions, contracts or agreements outlining the terms of your employment or engagement, and evidence showcasing your notable achievements or recognition.

After the USCIS approves the petition filed by your employer, you can proceed with the actual visa application. This step involves visiting a US embassy or consulate in your home country to submit your application and supporting documents. The embassy or consulate will review your application, conduct an interview if necessary, and make a final determination on whether to grant you this visa.

It is essential to meticulously prepare your application package and ensure that all necessary documentation is included. Additionally, it is recommended to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and procedures of the US embassy or consulate where you will be submitting your application. Following the instructions provided by the embassy or consulate and providing thorough and compelling evidence of your extraordinary ability or achievement will enhance your chances of a successful application.

Application Process for an O-2 Visa

The O-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category specifically designed for accompanying individuals who will assist and support the O-1 Visa holder in their work or performance in the United States. The O-2 visa is available to individuals who have critical skills and experience that are necessary for the successful completion of the O-1 Visa holder’s activities.

To qualify for an O-2 visa, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Essential support role: You must demonstrate that you will play an integral role in supporting the O-1 Visa holder’s work and your assistance is essential for the successful execution of their activities.
  • Defined relationship: You should have a legitimate working relationship with the O-1 Visa holder. This can include being employed by the same employer or being contracted to work exclusively with the O-1 Visa holder.
  • Expertise and experience: You must possess specialized skills, knowledge, or experience that are not readily available in the United States and are critical for the O-1 Visa holder’s work.

It’s important to note that the O-2 Visa is dependent on the O-1 Visa holder, and you can only obtain the O-2 visa if the O-1 Visa holder is also eligible and has been approved. The O-2 visa duration will match the period of stay granted to the O-1 Visa holder.

To apply for an O-2 visa, the US employer or agent of the O-1 visa holder must file a petition on your behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition should include evidence of your essential role, expertise, and the need for your assistance. Once the petition is approved, you can apply for the O-2 visa at a US embassy or consulate in your home country.

It’s recommended to consult with immigration professionals or legal experts to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria and understand the process fully. They can provide guidance and assistance throughout the O-2 Visa application process.

Period of Stay/Extension of Stay

The initial period of stay is typically up to three years. However, the O-1 Visa validity can vary depending on the specific project or event. If you need to extend your stay, you can apply for extensions in one-year increments. There is no limit to the number of extensions you can request as long as you continue to meet the criteria for the visa category.

Family Members of O-1 and O-2 Visa Holders

The O-3 visa is specifically designed for the dependents and family members of O-1 and O-2 visa holders, allowing them to accompany you during your stay in the United States. It is important to note that the O-3 visa only permits residence in the US and does not grant work authorization.

To ensure that your dependents qualify for an O-3 Visa, they must meet certain criteria. They must be your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21. Additionally, you must have a valid visa status or have a pending application for an extension or change of status.

To initiate the O-3 Visa application for your dependents, you will need to follow these steps. First, you should complete the online nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160) for each family member seeking an O-3 Visa and pay the associated fees. Then, gather the necessary documentation, including passports, photographs, proof of the familial relationship (such as a birth certificate or a marriage certificate), and evidence of your O-1 Visa status.

Afterward, you should schedule a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate in your home country. You and your dependents need to attend the visa interview together, carrying all the required documents. During the interview, a consular officer will review the applications and supporting materials.

Once the O-3 Visa applications are approved, your dependents will be issued their O-3 Visas, allowing them to accompany you to the United States. It is worth noting that your O-1 Visa must be approved before your dependents can apply for the O-3 Visa.

Changing Employers

If you wish to change employers while on an O-1 Visa, the new employer must file a new petition on your behalf. You can begin working for the new employer once the petition is approved. It is crucial to maintain your legal status during the transition and ensure a seamless transfer of your visa.

Material Change in Terms and Conditions of Employment

If there are significant changes to your employment terms or conditions, such as changes in job responsibilities, work location, or employer, you must notify the USCIS.

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions for your O-1 Visa application?

If you think the O-1 Visa may be the right option for you, or if you’d like to know more about other US visa options, don’t hesitate to contact us and book a complimentary 30-minute call with one of our experts.

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

  • We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top Residency by Investment and Citizenship by Investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance. We have a team of immigration lawyers, and immigration advisers specialized in US immigration.
  • Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100 percent approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and guarantees that you can expect a successful application.
  • Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
  • Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
  • The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.


To find out more about immigration opportunities, investment visas, and work visas in the United States, the following articles may be useful:

Frequently Asked Questions About the O-1 Visa

Who are the O-1 Visa requirements?

You may qualify for an O-1 Visa if you possess extraordinary ability or achievement in your field, as demonstrated, for example, by a major internationally recognized award (for example, a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award), association memberships that require outstanding achievements, presence in major trade publications or other major media, or high remuneration. You must also have a job offer or engagement from a US employer who will act as your sponsor.

How long is an O-1 Visa valid for?

An O-1 Visa is typically granted for an initial period of up to three years. However, the duration can vary based on the specific project or event. Extensions can be requested in one-year increments as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

How hard is it to get an O-1 Visa?

Obtaining an O-1 Visa can be challenging as it requires substantial evidence of extraordinary ability or achievement. The process of application involves providing extensive documentation and proving the significance of your contributions in your field.

You must prove work of major significance in your sector by winning internationally recognized prizes, being present in major media outlets, having membership in associations that require outstanding achievements, writing scholarly articles of major significance, etc.

In short, having a distinguished reputation in areas such as science, arts, education, business, or athletics. Working with experienced immigration professionals can help you navigate the complexities and increase your chances of success.

Is an O-1 Visa better than a H-1B Visa?

The US O-1 Visa is not inherently better or worse than the H-1B Visa, so it’s not a case of making a direct comparison of O-1 vs H-1B. They serve different purposes and have different eligibility criteria. The O-1 Visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability, while the H-1B Visa is for specialized workers in occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. The choice between the two depends on your specific qualifications and circumstances.

What is considered a high salary for an O-1 Visa?

There is no fixed threshold for a high salary on an O-1 Visa. However, a salary that reflects your exceptional abilities and is significantly higher than average in your field can strengthen your case. The salary should be reasonable and in line with industry standards.

What are the disadvantages of an O-1 Visa?

Some potential disadvantages of the US O-1 Visa include the stringent eligibility requirements, the need for continuous evidence of extraordinary ability, and the limitations on self-employment. Additionally, changing employers requires filing a new petition, and dependents cannot work unless they secure their own employment authorization.

Does an O-1 visa require a job offer?

Yes, an O-1 Visa requires a job offer or engagement from a US employer who will act as your sponsor. The employer must file a petition on your behalf with the USCIS, providing evidence of your extraordinary ability and the need for your services in a critical or essential capacity in the United States.

Is an O-1 Visa easier than an EB-1 Visa?

The O-1 and EB-1 (Employment-Based First Preference) Visa are different immigration categories with distinct requirements. The EB-1 visa is an immigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors or researchers, winners of internationally recognized prizes, or multinational executives or managers. Comparing the difficulty of obtaining these visas can depend on individual circumstances and qualifications.

How much does it cost to sponsor an O-1 Visa?

The cost of sponsoring an O-1 Visa includes USCIS filing fees, legal fees, and other associated expenses. The exact amount can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the services provided by immigration attorneys or professionals. It’s advisable to consult with immigration experts to get an accurate estimate of the total visa cost.

Can the O-1 Visa lead to a Green Card?

You, as an O-1 Visa holder, have the potential to obtain a Green Card (permanent residency) in the United States. While this visa itself does not directly lead to a Green Card, there are pathways available from an O-1 Visa to Green Card. You can explore employment-based Green Cards through employer sponsorship or consider the Extraordinary Ability Green Card (EB-1A) category, which allows self-petitioning based on sustained acclaim in your field.

Another option is the National Interest Waiver (NIW) category, which exempts the need for employer sponsorship by demonstrating your work’s national importance. The Green Card process can be complex, so consulting an immigration professional is advised for personalized guidance.

What type of evidence is accepted for an O-1 Visa application?

The evidence required by the US Department of Homeland Security to prove extraordinary ability depends on your professional area. As a scientist or researcher, you will need to demonstrate authorship of scholarly articles in the field, as published in professional or major trade publications or other major media, or other published material. In business, you must prove to have been employed in a critical or essential capacity at a company with a distinguished reputation.

As an artist, or working in the motion picture or television industry, you will have to demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim or a record of major commercial successes. On the other hand, startup founders may satisfy the requirements by raising venture capital funding or by joining an accelerator program like Y Combinator, 500 Startups, or Techstars. As you can see, there are many different ways to provide reliable evidence for the visa.

Can international students apply for an O-1 Visa?

Although the O-1 Visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability, and contribution to important scholarly articles could be considered evidence of such extraordinary ability, this visa is typically used in academia for full time senior faculty members or researchers.