O-1A Visa

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O-1A Visa for Extraordinary Ability

Do you have “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, education, business, or athletics? If so, you might qualify for an O-1A visa to temporarily visit the U.S. to work in your field.

(Individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, motion pictures, or television industry may qualify for an O-1B visa.)

Currently, USCIS does not cap the number of O visas that are available each year, unlike some other categories of temporary visas.

The initial O-1 petition can be approved for up to three years, depending on the extent of your engagements in the U.S. If you have a continuing need to engage in long-term assignments, projects, or a group of related performances or activities, you might be able to receive extensions indefinitely.

Eligibility Requirements

To demonstrate extraordinary ability, you must have received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize. Or you must meet at least three of the following:

    1. 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 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 you, relating to your 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. Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization;
    5. Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance;
    6. Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
    7. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
    8. Evidence that you have either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

If you are in athletics, your support personnel might be eligible to enter the U.S. on an O-2 Visa. Your spouse and dependent children might qualify for O-3 visas.

Application Process

O-1A candidates must:

  • File Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) no more than one year before the visa is needed and at least 45 days before the date of employment.
  • Find a petitioner who can either be an employer or an agent.
  • Include a copy of the employment contract and an itinerary.
  • Get an advisory opinion and recommendations from experts in their field.
  • Demonstrate “sustained national or international acclaim” and that you are at the very top of your field of endeavor.
  • That they intend to work in your field of extraordinary ability when they come to the U.S.


  • Fees
    • $460 filing fee for Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker)
    • $2,500 for Premium Processing service fee
        • *Fee increased October 2020
  • Related Forms
    • Form G-28 (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative)
    • Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service)
    • Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker)
    • O and P Classifications Supplement to Form I-129
  • Steps
    • File Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) at least 45 days before date of employment
    • I-797 Fee Receipt Notice
    • I-797 Approval Notice
    • Notify Consulate/Change Status/Extension of Stay
    • Visa – Foreign worker must obtain a visa (except Canadians)
  • Immigrant Intent
    • You may not have either immigrant intent or nonimmigrant intent (dual immigrant intent). OK to simultaneously seek permanent residence (green card).
  • Who Qualifies
    • Employers
    • Employees
    • Talented Individuals
  • Period of Stay
    • Initial petition: up to 3 years depending on the length of your engagement
    • Extensions: Unlimited
  • USCIS Processing Time
    • Approximately 2 weeks