O-1 Visa as an Alternative to H-1B Visa

By Reuben Seguritan


There are different kinds of visas to bring a foreign national to the United States for a definite period of time. One of those visas is the O-1 nonimmigrant work visa for foreign nationals with extraordinary abilities. The foreign national must be sponsored by a US employer or agent. Foreign nationals cannot sponsor themselves for the O-1 visa. The advantage of the O-1 visa over other work visas such as the H-1B visa is there is no cap or yearly limit.


The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for a foreign national who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.


“Extraordinary” ability or achievement is a high standard that must be met in order to be approved for the O-1 visa. Evidence must be presented to support at least 3 of the 8 categories enumerated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These are: 1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor; 2. Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field; 3. Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought; 4. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field; 5. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought; 6. A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence; 7. Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought; and 8. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.


The 8 categories stated by the USCIS is not exclusive. Other comparable evidence may be presented to meet the “extraordinary” ability or achievement requirement.


There are different visas in the O-1 visa classification. The O-1A visas are for foreign nationals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry). The O-1B visas are for foreign nationals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry. The O-2 visas are for foreign nationals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance.  For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 foreign national has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a US worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1 foreign national. The O-3 visas are for foreign nationals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s.


O-1 visas are considered as “dual intent visas.” The O-1 foreign national is not required to show foreign residence to prove that he has an intent to return to that country. This means that the granting or extension of the O-1 visa cannot be denied even though a labor certification or a petition leading to permanent residence in the US is filed on behalf of the O-1 foreign national. However, the O-2 visa accompanying foreign national must be going to the US temporarily and must show that he has residence abroad. Hence, the O-2 visa foreign national must show that he will only be temporarily in the US to assist the O-1 visa foreign national.