Celebrities and Others Recognized for Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O Visas)

The O-1 visa is for prominent individuals who have “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics or for individuals of “extraordinary achievement” in the motion picture or television industry.

 There are sub-categories of the O Visa for essential support personnel (O-2) accompanying the principal alien for a specific performance or event as well as for dependent family members (O-3).

Extraordinary Ability in the Fields of Science, Education, Business, or Athletics

Extraordinary ability in the field of science, education, business, or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.  Set forth below are the specific criteria for an O-1 petition establishing “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. 

An alien of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize; or at least three of the following forms of documentation:

(1)  Documentation of the alien’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;

(2)  Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;

(3)  Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;

(4)  Evidence of the alien’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought;

(5)  Evidence of the alien’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;

(6)  Evidence of the alien’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;

(7)  Evidence that the alien has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;

(8)  Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

(9) If the criteria above do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

 

Extraordinary Achievement in the Motion Picture or Television Industry

Extraordinary achievement with respect to motion picture and television productions, as commonly defined in the industry, means a very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or television industry evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the motion picture or television field.

To qualify as an alien of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, the alien must be recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement as evidenced by the following:  evidence that the alien has been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award; or at least three of the following forms of documentation:

(1)  Evidence that the alien has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications contracts, or endorsements;

(2)  Evidence that the alien has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;

(3)  Evidence that the alien has 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;

(4)  Evidence that the alien has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, 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;

(5)  Evidence that the alien has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged.  Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements; or

(6)  Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

 

Derivative Visas (O-2) for Essential Support Staff

To qualify for a visa to accompany and assist an athlete or artist of extraordinary ability or achievement, support staff must clearly demonstrate that their role will relate to a specific performance or specific event(s) and that the support required is “an integral part of such actual performance.”  O-2 support personnel must demonstrate critical skills and experience with the principal that are not of a general nature and which cannot be performed by other individuals.

For motion picture or TV productions, the support staff must have skills and experience which are not general, which are critical and which are based on a pre- existing long-standing working relationship.  However, in the case of a specific production a long-standing relationship is unnecessary where there is significant pre or post production work that will take place inside and outside U.S. and the person’s presence needed for successful completion.

 

Agents as Petitioners

A United States agent may file a petition in cases involving workers who are traditionally self-employed or workers who use agents to arrange short-term employment on their behalf with numerous employers, and in cases where a foreign employer authorizes the agent to act on its behalf. A United States agent may be: the actual employer of the beneficiary; the representative of both the employer and the beneficiary; or, a person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent. A petition filed by a United States agent is subject to the following conditions:

(1) An agent performing the function of an employer must specify the wage offered and the other terms and conditions of employment by contractual agreement with the beneficiary or beneficiaries. The agent/employer must also provide an itinerary of definite employment and information on any other services planned for the period of time requested.

(2) A person or company in business as an agent may file the P petition involving multiple employers as the representative of both the employers and the beneficiary or beneficiaries if the supporting documentation includes a complete itinerary of services or engagements. The itinerary shall specify the dates of each service or engagement, the names and addresses of the actual employers, the names and addresses of the establishment, venues, or locations where the services will be performed. In questionable cases, a contract between the employer(s) and the beneficiary or beneficiaries may be required. The burden is on the agent to explain the terms and conditions of the employment and to provide any required documentation.

 

Mandatory Consultation or Advisory Opinion

An important supporting document for an O-1 petition is a “consultation” or “advisory opinion” from an appropriate “peer group,” labor or management organization in the area of the applicant’s ability.  Consultation with an appropriate U.S. peer group (which could include a person or persons with expertise in the field), labor and/or management organization regarding the nature of the work to be done and the alien’s qualifications is mandatory before a petition for an O-1 or O-2 classification can be approved.  The petitioner shall obtain an advisory opinion from such peer group, labor, and/or management organization; advisory opinions must be submitted in writing and must be signed by an authorized official of the group or organization.

 

 

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