As a company owner/manager in the United States, you might be organizing an event or production that requires you to invite talented foreigners. If you’ve identified foreign professionals to star or grace your event, you need to petition for a special visa classification to bring such nonimmigrant experts to the US. One search type of visa is an O-1 visa. 

The only caveat is that the filing process is complex, especially if you’re uninitiated in immigration law. That’s why it’s critical to partner with an immigration lawyer from The Law Office of Lina Baroudi who can help you navigate the complicated application procedures. 

Still, it’s necessary to understand what an O-1 visa is, the eligibility requirements, and the application process. This article provides all that information and more. Read on. 

What is an O-1 Visa?

The O-1 is a non-immigration visa provided to individuals who possess extraordinary abilities or have excelled remarkably in their fields, be it science, arts, business, education, athletics, film, and television industry. Usually, these professionals are nationally and globally acclaimed for their achievements. 

An O-1 visa holder can also bring their immediate family members via the O-3 visa category – or a personal assistant for a specific event using the O-2 category. 

Different Classifications of the O-1 Visa

The O-1 visa category is classified into various types, depending on an individual’s expertise in various fields. They include:

  • O-1A: People with extraordinary abilities in fields, such as sciences, business, education, and athletics
  • O-1B: People with extraordinary abilities in arts (i.e. film production and television industry)
  • O-2: Individuals who accompany an O-1 visa holder who is extraordinarily talented in athletics or artistry in a particular event or performance
  • O-3: Immediate family members (spouse and children) of O-1 and O-2 visa holders

Eligibility Requirements for O-1 Visa

The qualification criteria for the O-1 visa vary, based on the beneficiary’s specific circumstances. The following section is divided into three parts: 

  1. Science, business, education, and athletics
  2. Motion pictures/TV
  3. Arts

Science, business, education, and athletics

If you’d like to obtain an O-1 visa in one of these fields, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Possess an extraordinary ability
  • Have sustained national and international recognition
  • Demonstrate that they’ve scoured the highest level in their field

Motion pictures/TV

As aforementioned, applicants in the motion pictures and television (MPTV) sector fall under the O-1B category. The candidate must:

  • Have a track record of extraordinary achievement 
  • Be skilled and recognized beyond the standard achievement in the MPTV sector
  • Be widely acclaimed as being prominent in their field


Individuals in this category must boast “distinction” in their fields. If you’re applying as an artist under the O-1B (arts) classification, you must prove that you’re:

  • Distinguished in your field
  • Have attained a “high level of achievement”
  • Skilled and recognized beyond the normal standards seen in the arts
  • Widely acclaimed in the art space

How to Apply for an O-1 Visa

The US employer or agent petitioning on behalf of the talented foreigner must first fill Form I-129 following the USCIS guidelines and present the required support documents. The agent must submit the form within 45 days before the production or event begins. Moreover, they can’t file the form more than six (6) months before the intended start date. 

Required Evidence and Support Documents

As specified in the USCIS guideline, the petitioner must file Form I-129 and present an advisory letter recognized by an organization of peers (such as a labor union or association) to verify the applicant’s extraordinary abilities in their field.

If no advisory letter is available, the USCIS will make an informed decision based on the documentation and evidence submitted with Form I-129. If the applicant entered the US within the past two (2) years using an advisory letter, they may petition a waiver of this requirement.

An employment contract or written verbal agreement securing the employer-employee relationship; the applicant must provide evidence that they’ll be working in their field of extraordinary ability during their time in the US. This evidence must: 

  • Describe the activities
  • Start and end dates of the activities 
  • Copy of the itinerary for the activities

Proof of the beneficiary’s talents, including awards, nominations, or three of the pieces of evidence discussed below. 

Acceptable Evidence and Support Documents

If applying under the O-1A category, an applicant must submit three (3) of the following evidence:

  • Proof that the foreigner is part of a relevant organization recognizing their extraordinary achievement
  • Proof that the foreigner is an employee of a highly-regarded organization in which they had a significant role
  • Evidence that the applicant was honored with a nationally or internationally recognized award
  • Evidence of the applicant’s contribution in their field
  • Evidence that the foreigner received a significant sum of money because of undertaking their duties in their field
  • Proof that the applicant has written scholarly work published in major media, journals, or trade publications
  • Proof that the applicant was part of an expert panel adjudicating or judging the work of other professionals in their field

Beneficiaries filing applications under the O-1B category are required to submit three (3) of the following documents and evidence:

  • Testimonials from other experts confirming the applicant’s reputation
  • Proof showing that the applicant has a history of performing lead, starring, or critical roles for highly reputable organizations
  • Evidence that the applicant has received significant amounts of money for rendering their services
  • Proof (such as titles, published material, box office receipts, etc.) demonstrating the beneficiary’s commercially acclaimed status
  • Documents (such as articles, reviews, and testimonials) proving that the applicant has a national or global reputation for being extraordinary in their field
  • Reviews, advertisements, endorsements, contracts, or publications showing that the applicant has taken lead roles in major productions or events

Why Hire an Immigration Lawyer?

From the above information, it’s quite evident that applying for an O-1 visa is complicated, with so many required documents and strict guidelines. As an ordinary petitioner, the chances of making mistakes are high. The repercussions can also ruin your chances of obtaining a visa for your preferred talented foreigner. That’s why it’s crucial to partner with an immigration lawyer.

Despite the extensive and complicated paperwork, a California immigration lawyer will gather and file the correct documents and evidence, thus alleviating the mistakes that might derail your chance of submitting the right paperwork. Moreover, they not only understand immigration laws, but are also experienced, having dealt with many O-1 visa applications. Therefore, they can guarantee a successful application and approval. 

An immigration attorney can maneuver the permits and regulations to ensure you get to where you want to be. Whether it’s acquiring work permits or bringing your immediate family under the O-3 category, an expert immigration lawyer is a veritable professional, helping you overcome the regulations and permits you need to achieve that. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does an applicant need a visa after Form I-129 approval? 

No. Once Form I-129 is approved, the beneficiary receives an O-1 visa required for their stay in the US (usually not exceeding three years). However, O-2 visa applicants must apply for visas following Form I-129 approval. 

What happens if the petition is denied?

The USCIS will usually send a written notification to the petitioner explaining the reason for denial. This notification contains information on how to appeal and file a motion to reopen the case (through the USCIS office that handled the petition).

Can the applicant extend their stay in the United States?

Yes. If the beneficiary wishes to stay in the US beyond the validity period of their O-1 visa, you must file another Form I-129, together with a written reason for the extension and a copy of the arrival/departure record. Although the petitioner described the activities in the initial filing, they must explain why an extension is necessary for the event or production.