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In this article, you will find out what the United States O-Visa is, the requirements and how it can be obtained by foreign nationals who qualify for one.

Although processing a visa for the USA does not require by law to have a lawyer, it is more than recommended to avoid mistakes in the process and achieve the desired objectives. The slightest error can throw the entire process overboard and hence the importance of having professionals with deep knowledge in American immigration law.

Our New Jersey immigration lawyers have more than 10 years helping aliens process any type of US visa. You can contact us by calling, emailing or scheduling an appointment at one of our offices located in Newark and Ridgewood.

O visa requirements For the United States and everything you should know In 2024

The O visa is a nonimmigrant visa intended for aliens who have extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business, or athletics. 

This visa can also be applied for by national foreigners who have a history of outstanding achievement in the motion picture or television industry. However, they must have been recognized nationally or internationally for such achievements.

what is p visa

The O visa can be confused with the P type visa, which is intended for artists and athletes. Despite their similarity, O status covers more professions than P status.

What Are The Types Of O Visas Available?

  • O-1A: For extraordinary abilities in science, education, athletics, or business. This subcategory does not include extraordinary abilities in the arts, motion pictures or television industry.
  • O-1B: For extraordinary ability in arts or extraordinary achievement in the film or television industry.
  • O-2: Intended for individuals accompanying O-1 visa holders to help out at a specific event or presentation.
  • O-3: It is for the spouse or children of the O-1 or O-2 visa holder.

If the alien’s purpose is to travel to the United States solely for business purposes, they may qualify for the B-1 business visitor visa.

How Do You Qualify For The O-1 Visa?

Let’s take a look at specific o visa requirements. Firsly, to qualify for an O-1 visa, the alien must demonstrate extraordinary ability by continuous national and international acclaim. In addition, they must intend to travel to the United States on a temporary basis to work in the field of their extraordinary ability.

An alien is considered to have extraordinary ability in education, science, athletics, or business when they have achieved a high level of expertise in their field. You can obtain detailed information on how USCIS evaluates such evidence through the USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 2, Part M, Chapter 4, Section C.

  • National foreigners who have extraordinary abilities in the arts must possess a high degree of skill above that ordinarily encountered. 
  • This can be achieved through prominent recognition, being renowned as a standout, or being highly known in the field of the arts.

Qualifications For the motion picture or television industry

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the television or motion picture industry, the alien must demonstrate extraordinary achievement through a significant degree of skill and recognition in that industry.

Therefore, foreigners with high achievement in the television or film industry must be above the average. Reaching the point that the foreigner is recognized as notable or outstanding in those fields.

Not sure if you meet the o visa requierements? Don’t worry, our attorney Carolina T. Curbelo can help you determine if they meet these eligibility criteria. 

Eligibility Criteria For The O-1A Visa

The applicant must demonstrate that they have received a major award such as international recognition. For example, the Nobel Prize. If they do not have it, they can submit as evidence at least 3 of the following:

  • Having a high salary or other remuneration obtained for the services offered. It must be proven in contracts or other reliable evidence.
  • Be a member of an association in the field for which you are seeking the classification that such extraordinary achievements require. It must be judged by national or international experts with recognition in the area of ​​performance.
  • Having received national or international recognition awards, or awards for excellence in the field.
  • Have original contributions of importance in the area of ​​performance, whether academic or business.
  • Having published materials in professional communications, newspapers, or other major media outlets about the recipient and the work they do in the field where they have outstanding skills.
  • Have authorship of academic articles in professional journals or other important media in the area.
  • Be employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Participate in a panel discussion, as a judge of work or others in the same area, or in an allied field of expertise in that area.
obtaining us o1 visa

Eligibility Criteria For The O-1B Visa

This criteria is part of the o visa requirements and therefore, beneficiaries must evidence that they have received some important nomination in national or international awards or awards in the field of performance. This can be an Oscar, Emmy, Directors Guild Award or a Grammy. If not, the beneficiary can show at least 3 of the following.

  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for their services. It has to be proven through contracts or other reliable evidence.
  • Have received significant recognition for their achievements from any organization, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the area in which the recipient practices or for critical reviews or other materials published in newspapers, journals, or magazines.
  • They have performed and will perform services as a leading or starring actor in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation. 
  • Have records of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, such as title, ratings, movie box office receipts or television ratings, and other career achievements published in major magazines or newspapers.
  • They worked in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

How To Get The O-1 Visa

This is a sponsorship visa. Therefore, those who can sponsor the O-1 visa is a United States employer, United States agent, or a foreign employer through a United States agent through the filing of Form I-129, petition for a nonimmigrant worker with USCIS on behalf of the national foreigner. .

The submission must be accompanied by the required evidence indicated in the instructions of the form. The alien’s employer or agent must file this petition more than one year in advance of the actual date the alien’s services are required. 

To avoid possible delays to compile with your o visa requirements, Form I-129 must be filed at least 45 days prior to the date of employment. 

Support Documentation To Apply For The Type O Visa

The O visa petitioner must submit the following documentation:


This documentation is a consultative opinion written by peer groups that includes individuals appointed by groups specializing in the field of skill or by labor organizations. It should be considered that:

  • If the O-1 visa petition is for an individual with extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television, it must come from a union or organization with experience and expertise in that field.
  • If the petition includes a distinguishing mark, the documentation must be sent to USCIS for verification. Copies of these documents that do not have a distinctive mark may raise suspicions about the authenticity of the documentation, which can cause delays in the process.
    • If this situation arises, USCIS may request the petitioner to submit the original version of the documentation.

Exceptions To Consultation Requirements

If the employer or agent can show that no peer group (including a labor organization) exists, the decision must be based on the evidence on record. USCIS may waive a consultation for certain aliens with extraordinary ability in the arts. 

For aliens who wish to obtain admission to perform similar services within 2 years after prior consultation, the employer or agent may submit an application for exemption and a copy for consultation.

Contract Between Petitioners And Beneficiaries

The petitioners must submit a copy of any existing written contract between them and the beneficiaries or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed.


Petitioners must provide an explanation of the events or activities to be held, their start and end dates, and a copy of any existing itinerary. The itinerary must evidence that there will be events or activities in the alien’s field area of ​​extraordinary ability. 


A US agent can be the alien’s current employer or their representative (can also be an employer’s representative). Additionally, agents can also be an entity authorized by the employer to act on their behalf.

Evidence To Prove O-1 Visa Eligibility

Applicants must demonstrate evidence of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, arts, education, athletics, business, or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture industry. Said file must include at least three different types of documentation or comparable evidence. The evidence must show that it meets the standards for classification and therefore the o visa requirements. 

requierements for the o type visa in the united states

Other Documents Required from the Foreign national

Other documents required for the O visa alien applicant are:

  • Passport copy.
  • Copy of the birth certificate.
  • Copy of the study certificates.
  • Transcript or notes from the university.
  • Resumes.
  • Letter from the employer in support of the visa application or its extension.

How To Get The O-2 Visa?

The employer must file a petition for the O-2 visa through form I-129 on behalf of the national foreigner, together with the evidence required in the instructions of the form. The O-2 nonimmigrant alien must be petitioned in conjunction with the petition for the O-1 entertainer or athlete alien.

The application cannot be submitted more than one year before the date on which the alien will begin employment. To avoid delays in the application process, the request must be submitted at least 45 days prior to the date of employment.

In addition to Form I-129, the petitioner must submit the following documentation:


If the petitioner supports a national foreigner with extraordinary abilities in athletics or the arts, the advisory opinion must come from a labor organization. To support a foreigner with outstanding ability in motion pictures or television, the advisory opinion must come from an appropiate labor organization and a management organization.

Evidence Showing O-2 Eligibility

It must be shown that the alien is indispensable and possesses necessary skills compatible with the requirements for the O-2 visa and has substantial experience in tasks and support services essential to the O-1 visa holder. 

In the case of a specific motion picture or television production, the evidence must prove that the beneficiary is essential to the successful completion of the production made outside the US in a significant part but its completion will be within the US.

What Happens After The Petition Is Approved?

After the petition is approved, the national foreigner can apply for the visa at a US embassy or consulate. The Department of State (DOS) will be the one who establishes the visa processing and fees.

What Is The O Visa Application Process?

The process of applying for the O visa by the national foreigner consists of the following steps and requirements:

  1. Wait for the US employer to file the petition with USCIS on your behalf.
  2. File Form DS-160 online.
  3. Pay the O-1 visa fee.
  4. Schedule the visa interview with the US embassy or consulate.
  5. Gather all the necessary documents.
  6. Attend the visa interview.
applying for a o visa in the us

How Long Does It Take To Obtain The O-1 Visa?

In general, the processing time to obtain the O-1 visa usually takes approximately 2 to 3 months. However, the option of speeding up the processing time to a few days is available through the Form I-907, application for premium processing.

How Long Can You Stay In The United States With The O-1 Visa?

The initial period of stay in the United States with the O-1 visa is up to 3 years. In addition, there is an extension of stay which USCIS determines the time necessary to complete the initial activity or event (with increments of up to 1 year). New petitions involving new events could be approved for up to a maximum of 3 years.

Under O status, the beneficiary will be admitted to the US for the validity period of the petition, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity begins and 10 days after the validity period expires. During this period, the beneficiary can only engage in authorized work.

USCIS may consider that a nonimmigrant with an O-1 visa maintains their status after termination of employment for a maximum period of 60 days during the validity period of the petition (or any other authorized period).

How To Request An Extension Of Stay For The Type O Visa?

The O visa petitioner must apply to USCIS for an extension of stay to continue or complete the same event or activity. To do this, they must submit the following:

  • The I-129 form.
  • Copy of Form I-94, entry/exit record of the beneficiary.
  • A statement from the petitioner explaining the reasons for the extension.

The statement must describe the event or activity that was the basis for the original approval and must confirm whether the extension is necessary for the beneficiary to continue or complete the described event or activity.

The beneficiary’s spouse and children may file Form I-539, Application for Extension/Change of Nonimmigrant Status, and submit supporting documentation to extend their stay.

How Can The Relatives Of The Holders Apply For The Type O Visa?

If the spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 are accompanying or later joining the O visa holder they may be eligible to apply for the O-3 visa. The period of stay will be the same as that of the holder and will have the same limitations.

O-3 visa holders cannot work in the US under this classification, but can study full-time or part-time.

f-1 student visa

In addition to learning about the different O visa requirements, you may be interested in learning about the F-1 student visa and how you can obtain it. Check our blog for further information.

Terms And Conditions Of Employment Of The Type O Visa

If there is any material change in the beneficiary’s terms and conditions of employment or eligibility, the petitioner must file an amended petition on Form I-129 at the service center where the original petition was filed.

There is regulation for O-1 professional athletes. 

  • If they are transferred from one team to another, employment authorization with a new employer will remain in effect for 30 days after being hired by the new organization. 
  • If the employer does not file a new Form I-129 within 30 days, the athlete may lose employment authorization. 

Athletes also lose their employment authorization if their new I-129 application is denied.

Return Transportation

If the employee terminates employment for reasons other than voluntary resignation, the employer must bear the reasonable cost of transportation back to his or her last place of residence outside the US. 

If an agent filed the petition on behalf of an employer, the agent and the employer are equally responsible for paying such costs.

Can I Change Employers With An O-1 Visa?

Although it is possible to change employers if the employee is in the United States on an O-1 visa, the new employer must file proper documentation with USCIS. 

Can I Get A Green Card With An O Visa?

The O visa is not a direct path to the Green Card, so it is not possible to obtain permanent residence through this visa. However, there are other alternate pathways, such as changing to an immigrant classification.

Some of the options to consider are the EB-1 or EB-2 visa, which are visas that lead to the Green Card. Another path is through a US family petition.

For more information regarding this, check our blog on how to obtain a Green Card.

How Much Does An O Visa Cost?

The I-129 form to apply for the O visa costs $460, while the O visa application fee is $190. If you opt for premium processing to expedite the time of the visa, it would have an additional cost of $2,500.

Is It Difficult To Obtain The O-1 Visa?

Although the approval rate for I-1 visas is significantly high (between 80% and 95% approval), it is recommended that you consult with an immigration attorney. This will avoid errors in the process that may lead to the denial of the visa. Our attorney has more than 10 years of experience helping immigrants process an American visa. 

Latina Immigration Lawyer At Curbelo Law To Apply For The O Visa 

Employers wishing to bring an alien of extraordinary ability to the United States will need the assistance of an immigration attorney to minimize any flaws in their application. Applying for an American visa can be complex, since if you do not submit the proper documentation or make the slightest mistake, the request can be denied.

For these reasons, the immigration attorney at Curbelo Law will be able to help all foreign national employers and employees obtain an O visa in order to enter the US legally. 

To contact the firm, you can call our Ridgewood or Newark, New Jersey offices directly or email to book your consultation.