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O Visas: A Quick & Easy Guide for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability in their Field

June 22, 2023  |  By Joseph Asir, Practice Chair

The United States has a variety of Visa options for individuals seeking to come to the country for work-related purposes. One such option is the O Visa, designed for individuals with extraordinary ability in their field. The O Visa is also known as the “genius” Visa.

It is a highly coveted option for those with extraordinary skills seeking to work in the U.S., as it offers numerous benefits and a path to permanent residency.

What are O Visas?

O Visas are nonimmigrant Visas designed for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. Though this is the Visa of choice for international sportspeople of repute and Hollywood stars, what is frequently overlooked is that this is the Visa of choice for immigrant entrepreneurs and start-ups.  The purpose of the O Visa is to allow these individuals to come to the U.S. temporarily to work in their field of expertise. The O Visa is divided into two categories: O-1A and O-1B.

O-1A is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, while O-1B is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts. Both categories require the individual to demonstrate a high level of achievement and recognition in their field, such as awards, publications, and other significant milestones.

What are Four Primary Reasons to Choose an O Visa?

There are several reasons why individuals may choose the O Visa over other Visa options. Some of the key benefits of the O Visa include:

  1. No numerical cap: Unlike other work Visas such as the H-1B, the O Visa is not subject to annual numerical limits, meaning that there is no limit on the number of individuals who can receive this type of Visa.
  2. No set end date: The O Visa is valid for an initial period of three years but can be extended in one-year increments for an indefinite period of time, as long as the individual continues to meet the criteria for the Visa.
  3. Path to permanent residency: The O Visa can serve as a steppingstone for individuals seeking to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. The O Visa does not lead directly to a green card, but it can be a factor in demonstrating that the individual is an exceptional talent and has a significant impact on the U.S. economy.
  4. Spouses and dependents: Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible to accompany the O Visa holder to the U.S. and may apply for work authorization while in the country.

How do you apply for an O Visa?

The application process for an O Visa requires a significant amount of documentation and evidence of the individual’s extraordinary ability. The immigration team at DHC is highly skilled in advising clients and putting together documentation for a successful O-1 filing.

What are Four Key Steps to the Process?

  1. Obtain a job offer: The individual must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in their field of expertise.
  2. Demonstrate extraordinary ability: The individual must provide documentation and evidence of their exceptional ability in their field, including awards, publications, and other significant milestones.
  3. Consult with a labor organization: For O-1B applicants, a consultation with a relevant labor organization in the field of the arts is required.
  4. Prepare and file the petition: The U.S. employer must file a petition on behalf of the individual, along with the required documentation and evidence.

The O Visa application process can be complex and time-consuming, but the benefits of this Visa make it a highly sought-after option for individuals with extraordinary ability in their field. At DHC we have developed a highly successful multi-disciplinary team to work across practices making it a one stop shop for the client. As Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” With the help of our experienced immigration team working in tandem with our other practices, the process can be made smoother and more successful.

In conclusion, the O Visa is an excellent option for individuals with extraordinary ability in their field who are seeking to come to the United States temporarily to work. With its numerous benefits and potential path to permanent residency, the O visa is the visa of choice for the brilliant and outstanding to call the United States home.

Meet the Author

Joseph Asir is the Chair of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron’s Immigration Law practice and has been practicing Immigration Law for over 25 years.

He is seasoned in representing high-end resorts that employ workers on H-2B visas, and investors from Korea, China, India, Latin America and other countries.

His practice group directs hundreds of immigrant visa cases annually and processes hundreds of non-immigrant visa applications for individuals and companies, with a focus on:

  • H-1B
  • H-2B
  • L-1
  • EB-1 through EB-5 visas
  • O visa applications


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