O-1 Extraordinary Ability or Achievement


This nonimmigrant visa category allows a U.S. employer to sponsor an international worker who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in the arts, athletics, business, education, or sciences through sustained international or national acclaim.

General Requirements

Here are the specific O-1 visa classifications:

  1. O-1A for applicants with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics
  2. O-1B for applicants with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
  3. O-2 for support staff (i.e. coaches, agents, etc.) who will accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance
  4. O-3 for dependent spouses and children under the age of 21 of O-1 and O-2 visa holders

Startup founders who have received significant funding and awards may utilize the O visa as an entrepreneur, although other pathways such as the E-2 Treaty Investor or the L-1 Intracompany Transferee visas may be preferred where possible.

Recent USCIS policy memoranda and announcements have also been encouraging for applicants in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

Application Process

The general application procedure starts with a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A written “no objection” written consultation letter from a relevant labor organization may be required for these types of visas, in addition to qualifying proof of “extraordinary ability.”

With the USCIS approval, noncitizens can apply for O visas at a U.S. Consulate abroad with jurisdiction over their residence or citizenship and seek admission with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a Port of Entry to the United States.

Merit-based immigration cases are among the most complex area within U.S. immigration law involving a higher potential for denial, so it’s critical to work with an experienced business immigration attorney. A substantial amount of evidentiary documentation must be submitted to prove extraordinary ability and that the beneficiary has a qualifying job offer to work in their area of expertise.

The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.