O-1 Visa: Requirements on How to Apply

O-1 Visa: Requirements on How to Apply

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H-1B Visa is usually the first option people consider when planning to move to the U.S. to work in a special occupation. However, there is a limit on issuing H-1B Visa for every fiscal year. To learn the current H-1B Cap, visit the website. There is another type of visa that coincides with the requirements and advantages of an H-1B Visa: An O-1 Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Visa. In addition, for O-1 Visa you do not need to wait for another year due to the limited number of issued visas. In this piece, we will explore the O-1 visa in-depth and explain everything you need to know about it, including its requirements, application process, and more!

  • What is an O-1 Visa?
  • O-1 Visa Eligibility Requirements
  • O-1 Visa and STEM
  • O-1 Visa Application Process

The O-1 visa is a work visa for individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements in sciences, education, business, athletics, arts, cinema, and TV. USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) defined extraordinary ability or achievement as a rare standard and particularly high above the average personal asset.

O-1 Visa Eligibility Requirements

Unlike an H-1B visa, you do not need a bachelor's or higher degree to be eligible for an O-1 visa. However, bachelor's or higher degrees might still be asked from applicants who are professionals in the sciences, education, and business fields, as degrees could be prerequisites for documenting extraordinary abilities or achievements.

The only qualification you need for O-1 eligibility is to prove your abilities or achievements through the ways USCIS finds acceptable. These ways vary and require you to submit documents that act as proof of evidence. The most important documents you can present as proof of evidence are internationally recognized awards such as Nobel, Pulitzer, etc., in sciences, business, and education; Olympic medals in athletics; Grammy, Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscars, etc. in cinema and TV. There are two kinds of O-1 Visas: O-1A and O-1B Visas.

O-1A Visa is for the field of sciences, education, business, and athletics. In case you do not have such an award, extraordinary abilities, and achievements in these fields, you must meet at least 3 out of 8 USCIS requirements to be eligible for O-1A:

  • An award is of lesser importance compared to the awards mentioned earlier. The award could be recognized both nationally and internationally.
  • Membership in an organization that requires extraordinary ability or achievement for participation
  • Proof of considerable contributions to distinguished professional publications
  • Proof of significant contribution to your field of expertise
  • Proof of various academic articles in your field
  • Commercial success or a large salary for your work
  • Professional experience as a jury with which you have evaluated the works of your peers
  • Professional experience in an essential position in a reputable organization related to your field

If you are a professional coming from cinema or TV, you may present the following documents as proof of your O-1B eligibility:

  • Starring in productions or events that have been promoted as distinguished in critical reviews, commercial promotions, media releases, etc.
  • National or international fame is evidenced by critical reviews or media publications in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, etc.
  • Leading, starring, or being in an essential role for organizations and establishments of distinguished fame as evidenced by written pieces in newspapers, publications, testimonials, or trade journals
  • Resume of great commercial, critically acclaimed, or any other professional achievements as evidenced by television or online ratings, favoring critical reviews in leading magazines, journals, newspapers, etc.
  • Wide-ranging recognition from organizations, government agencies, critics, etc. that have expertise in your field of practice
  • Having a large salary for services you have performed, or will perform, as compared to other people in your field of expertise

O-1A Visa and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)

Recently, USCIS updated its policy regarding criteria and evidence to determine eligibility for O-1A Visa, focusing on individuals in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields. USCIS will consider the “totality of the evidence” to determine an individual's eligibility for the visa. This means that the evidence should support the individual’s claim as one of the few people who significantly impact their field of study. For example, some of the evidence could be as follows:

  • Publication of articles in highly ranked journals,
  • The applicant’s total rate of citation is relatively higher than others in the field,
  • Applicant’s employment or research experience with leading institutions in the field,
  • Receipt of unsolicited invitations to speak or present research at nationally or internationally recognized conferences in the field.

Overall, USCIS provides an opportunity for individuals who work in STEM fields to present comparable evidence to prove their eligibility for O-1A Visa.

O-1 Visa Application Process

To apply for an O-1 Visa, you must have a job offer from an employer or manager in America. The employer or manager will act as your visa sponsor and start the application process by filing the Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker by the USCIS. After filing the I-129 form, you will sign an employment contract with your employer or manager sponsor.

You should manage the application process with a manager sponsor if you plan to work more than one job. For example, suppose you proceed with a manager who sponsors your O-1 visa application. In that case, you must submit a full list of the works that you will undertake in the United States to relevant authorities of the U.S. government. But on the other hand, whether your sponsor is a U.S. employer or manager, they will have to apply for an O-1 visa on your behalf.

To prove that you are a prominent professional in your field of expertise, you should prepare a portfolio detailing the unique works you have performed. Given that you can work more than one job in the U.S. making ready distinct portfolios for each work you plan to undertake would be better.

Besides portfolios, you must add to your application file the essential consultation letter in some cases. Consultation letters can be obtained through leading U.S. peer groups, labor organizations, and professionals related to your field. These letters are expected to "describe your abilities or achievements, explain the nature of the duties you will perform, and state that your extraordinary abilities are required for the position offered."

To sum up, the most essential documents to submit during your applications are as follows:

  • A job offer from an employer or manager in the US
  • A portfolio that consists of your works
  • A consultation letter written by the people who are leading figures in your field of study

The result of O-1 applications is usually announced in four to six months. However, you may opt for USCIS's premium processing service, which can reduce your wait time to 15 days! In addition, the validity duration of the O-1 visa is three years, and you can ask for an extension for another year without any limit on the number of extension applications!


At Grape Law, we successfully manage the application process of our customers. We know the risks you are taking and the labor you are putting into your career. Therefore, we value your journey and work to help you to realize your dreams.

We are looking forward to answering your questions or attending to your inquiries regarding O-1 eligibility requirements, application documents, the application process, and more. Please do not hesitate to contact and reach us by email at [email protected] or schedule a face-to-face meeting on our website.


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