O Visas: Visas for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

The O visa category is available for alien applicants who are recognized as possessing "extraordinary" ability in science, art, education, business, motion pictures, television industry, or athletics. The O category also covers certain aliens accompanying the O applicant and the O applicant's family members.

An O visa will be issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only after the petitioner consults a peer group to obtain an advisory opinion regarding the proposed work and the alien's qualifications.


The O visa will be granted for an initial period of stay of up to three years and the visa can be extended in one year increments. Freelancing is not permitted on an O visa, so the alien must be entering the United States (US) to perform services in "specific, identified" events. Therefore, the alien will only be admitted to the US for a time period adequate to accomplish the event or activity listed in the petition.


Securing an O visa for an alien requires three general steps:

  1. Obtain advisory opinion from a peer group, labor organization, or management group.
  2. File O petition with USCIS based upon the advisory opinion.
  3. Once approved by USCIS, obtain the O visa from the US consulate.

The law establishes three levels of scrutiny for O visa applications: (1) The highest standard and most exacting scrutiny applies to applications for O visas in the sciences, business, education, and athletics; (2) an intermediate standard is applied to applications for O visas in the motion picture or television industry, and (3) the lowest standard is applied to applications for O visas in the arts.

O Visas for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in Science and Business

USCIS has stated that an applicant in this category must have risen to the very top of his or her field and has sustained national or international acclaim. This can be demonstrated by the receipt of a major international prize like the Nobel Prize, or at least three of the following criteria:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in associations in the field, which requires outstanding achievement of their members
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien concerning the alien's work in the field
  • Participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the field
  • Scientific, scholarly or business related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field in professional journals or other major media
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • High salary or other remuneration commanded by the alien for his or her services
  • Other comparable evidence
O Visas for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in the Arts

For O visa applications in the arts, the alien must have achieved distinction evidenced by a high level of achievement that is substantially superior to that which is normally encountered. "Art" can encompass traditional arts like painting and photography, but also includes culinary arts, designers, theater actors and makeup artists, among others.

Contact the Law Office of Samuel Berger today for more information on how you can apply for the O visa. We can help you obtain the visa you need to conduct to do what you need to do in the U.S.