The O-1 visa category is divided into two groups: O-1A for the sciences, athletics, and business; O-1B for artists. While the standard of “extraordinary ability” applies to both, the definition of “extraordinary ability” is slightly different for each group.

  1. Employer or Agent Sponsor. The O-1 visa requires a contract with a U.S. employer or agent. You may not self-petition for an O-1.
  2. Advisory Opinion. O-1 visa petitions must also include an advisory opinion from a trade or consulting organization, or a reputable peer group stating that the individual does have a sustained reputation of extraordinary ability. If there is no applicable peer group, a number of strong and focused letters from experts in the field may be substituted for the advisory opinion. It is important to show that the individual has already achieved the top level in their field. The procedure for obtaining an advisory opinion differs from organization to organization. Click here for a list of consultation organizations for the O visa.
  3. Extraordinary Ability. In order to qualify for an O-1 temporary visa, the individual must have extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, or athletics.


Extraordinary ability for O-1A purposes (sciences, athletics, business) is determined in the same manner as it is for EB-1A purposes, signifying a level of expertise indicating that an individual is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of their field. As such, the individual must either demonstrate a one-time achievement at the caliber of an Olympic Medal or Nobel prize, or satisfy at least three of the following criteria:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally and internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by experts in the field;
  • Published materials about the individual in professional or major trade publications, or appearance/published materials about the individual in other major media;
  • Participation, either individually or as part of a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the field (including having served as a reviewer/referee for articles to be published, on discussion and advisory panels, etc.);
  • Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, as published in professional or major trade publications or in other major media;
  • Serving in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation; and/or
  • Commanding a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, as compared to others in the field; and/or
  • Comparable evidence where the listed criteria are not readily applicable to the beneficiary’s occupation.


For O-1B purposes, extraordinary ability is defined as “distinction” in the arts. As with O-1A, distinction can be shown through a one-time major achievement such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Director’s Guild Award, or evidence of at least three of the following:

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about you in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators of title, rating, or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which you are engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements;
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence.
  • Comparable evidence where the listed criteria are not readily applicable to the beneficiary’s occupation (this does not apply to the motion picture or television industry).

On the whole, eligibility for either the O1A or O1B visa is contingent upon the individual’s extraordinary ability as demonstrated through sustained national or international acclaim, extensive documentation of recognition for achievements in the field, and an offer of work in the area of extraordinary ability.

If you’d like to read more about other visa options for artists, look to our article “Article:  Visas After Graduation, for Artists