What are the Criteria for an O Nonimmigrant Visa?

In order to prove that a foreign national has extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics, the foreign national must make a showing of sustained national or international acclaim by receipt of a major internationally recognized award (e.g., the Nobel Prize), or documenting at least three (3) of the following criteria:

  1. Documentation of the foreign national's receipt of a nationally or internationally recognized prize or award for excellence in their field;
  2. Documentation of the foreign national's membership in associations requiring outstanding achievements of their members as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field for which classification is sought;
  3. Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the foreign national, relating to the foreign national's work in the field for which classification is sought;
  4. Evidence of the foreign national'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 for which classification is sought;
  5. Evidence of the foreign national's original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  6. Evidence of the foreign national's authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  7. Evidence that the foreign national has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  8. Evidence that the foreign national has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, shown by contracts or other reliable sources.

In order to prove that a foreign national has extraordinary ability in the arts, the foreign national must make a showing that he is prominent in his field by being nominated for or the recipient of a significant international or national award or prize (e.g., an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director's Guild Award), or documenting at least three (3) of the following criteria:

  1. Lead in production having a distinguished reputation;
  2. Critical reviews in major newspapers or trade journals;
  3. Lead for organization that has a distinguished reputation;
  4. Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
  5. Significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field;
  6. Has commanded or will command a high salary.

In order for a foreign national to prove he has had extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or TV industry, USCIS will apply the same criteria used to prove extraordinary ability in the arts, except that USCIS will weigh the evidence differently by requiring a person of extraordinary achievement to meet a higher standard.

Note that a foreign national trying to prove his extraordinary ability in the arts or science, education, business or athletics may submit comparable evidence if any of the above does not readily apply to his occupation. This comparable evidence standard is not available to a foreign national trying to prove extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or TV industry.

In order for a foreign national to prove he is eligible to accompany an O-1 nonimmigrant artist or athlete of extraordinary ability, the foreign national must show that he is coming to the United States to assist in the performance of the O-1 nonimmigrant, be an integral part of the actual performance, and have critical skills and experience with the O-1 nonimmigrant which are not of a general nature and which are not possessed by a U.S. worker.

In order for a foreign national to prove he is eligible to accompany an O-1 nonimmigrant of extraordinary achievement, the foreign national must show that he is coming to the United States to accompany an O-1 nonimmigrant involved in a motion picture or television production, the foreign national must have skills and experience with the O-1 nonimmigrant which are not of a general nature and which are critical based on a pre-existing longstanding working relationship or, with respect to the specific production, because significant production (including pre- and post-production work) will take place both inside and outside the United States and the continuing participation of the alien is essential to the successful completion of the production.

Finally, any foreign national trying to prove eligibility as an O-2 nonimmigrant must establish the current essentiality, critical skills, and experience of the O-2 nonimmigrant with the O-1 nonimmigrant and that the foreign national has substantial experience performing the critical skills and essential support services for the O-1 nonimmigrant. Also, with respect to a specific motion picture or television production, the evidence must also establish that significant production has taken place outside the United States, and will take place inside the United States, and that the continuing participation of the O-2 nonimmigrant is essential to the successful completion of the production.

This guide was developed by Meyers & Meyers, LLP as a resource to help you understand some aspects of Immigration Law, which is very complex. It is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. We recommend you contact one of our experienced Immigration Attorneys to devise an individualized plan to help you and/or your company achieve your goals. Please contact Meyers & Meyers, LLP at information@meyersandmeyers.com for assistance.

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