O-1A Visa

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O-1A Visa for Extraordinary Ability

We commonly work alongside founders, hiring managers, and recruiters who are responsible for hiring the world’s best and brightest talent. Oftentimes, they identify an individual with extraordinary ability who would undeniably benefit their company’s growth but run into challenges when they try to secure the right legal immigration status to begin work. As knowledgeable and experienced O-1A visa attorneys, we work alongside HR professionals, People Ops, human resources, and company executives to secure the O-1A nonimmigrant visa for key employees who possess extraordinary abilities in their field.

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.

Benefits of the O-1A Visa

Flexible Relationship with the Green Card

Broadly speaking, United States immigration law requires that nonimmigrant visa holders maintain a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning. This concept essentially bars nonimmigrant visa holders from pursuing a Green Card to remain in the country on a permanent basis. 

The doctrine of dual intent, however, is a workaround for this, allowing an O-1A visa holder to apply for a Green Card in the United States (9 FAM 402.13-5(B)). Dual intent also implies that O-1A visa holders have the ability to work and travel to and from the United States while their application for permanent residence is pending as long as they have a valid visa and/or Advance Parole.

Relatively Faster Application Process and High Approval Rate

Rightfully so, the founders and startups we work with find nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a stagnant administrative processing phase. Securing the right visas for your team quickly and efficiently is a primary consideration, and the O-1A visa offers a comparatively streamlined application process. It is also possible to pay for Premium Processing to expedite the process. 

While applications for many other visa categories can take upwards of one year to be processed, the O-1A visa is typically completed in a short timeframe, depending on a few factors (such as which USCIS field office decides the application). Not only that but the vast majority of applications received by the USCIS are approved each year. Working with the right  O-1A visa attorneys can help streamline your process.

No Minimum Degree Requirement

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary ability, an individual must prove their achievements through the receipt of a major internationally recognized award or meet three other specific requirements. Academic background, or lack thereof, does not impact a person’s eligibility to apply for the O-1A visa. We have successfully gotten O-1As approved for people without college degrees, as well as researchers with advanced degrees, and everybody in between.

J Visa Holder Eligibility

One of the most streamlined and efficient ways for a J visa holder to switch their immigration status is through the O-1A visa. The O-1A visa is a particularly good option for J-1 holders who are subject to the two-year home residency requirement under Section 212(e) and cannot secure a J-1 waiver, such as Fulbright Scholars.

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:

  • Nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • 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.

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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.

What Is the Processing Time for the O-1A Visa?

The O-1A visa category typically sees fewer applications compared to other visa categories, which lends itself to shorter processing times. Generally, it can take as little as two months to process the O-1A visa application, but processing times can reach four to six months, depending on the service center. Opting for Premium Processing for a cost of $2,500 guarantees a decision within 15 calendar days.

Immigration Law for Tech Startups

Our acclaimed podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, highlights the most impactful immigration law strategies to empower global leaders to influence change. On this podcast, you will sit in on conversations that empower rapidly scaling tech companies and highly motivated entrepreneurs from around the globe to hire the world’s best and brightest talent. Whether you are a hiring manager, founder, CEO, aspiring immigrant, or anything in between, Immigration Law for Tech Startups will provide value for any professional looking to sponsor an employee for the O-1A visa. 

How to Select the Right O-1A Visa Attorney for Your Case

Selecting the right O-1A visa attorney for your case requires you to carefully weigh your unique company vision alongside your short- and long-term entrepreneurial goals. The right attorney will listen to your needs and goals in order to craft a legal strategy that most effectively optimizes your chances of success during the process. When selecting an O-1 visa lawyer for your case, consider the following: 

  • Experience and competence. Your attorney should be able to relate to business- and tech-minded entrepreneurs and individuals. Innovative startups and companies should have a legal team that shares a similar mindset. Our team of experienced attorneys and paralegals not only enjoys working with forward-thinking entrepreneurs, but the team’s experience lends itself to this work. We have helped thousands of founders and startups with United States immigration matters. 
  • Communication. The way you correspond with your attorney matters, and it is essential that you consider responsiveness and timeliness when hiring legal counsel to represent your business. How often can you expect to communicate with your legal team? Will they keep you up-to-date on key developments and expectations associated with your visa application(s)?
  • Solution-oriented. The immigration process is inherently complex and nuanced, requiring careful attention to detail and creative strategizing to reach a successful outcome. Ensure that your legal team is solution-oriented. Do they offer a step-by-step plan of action? Are they prepared to mitigate risk at every step of the process?

The Alcorn Method 

After spending decades obtaining insights and crafting our approach, we are confident in our unique method. When you choose to work with an Alcorn immigration attorney, you can expect the following experience: 

  • Strategize. In the initial stages of working together, we will carefully listen to your goals and expectations in order to fully understand the complexities of your business and your overall growth trajectory. We take these unique factors into consideration to develop an immigration solution for your goals. 
  • Prepare. The key to filing a successful application is preparation. We will work alongside you to compile the necessary records and paperwork, then carefully review your documents to ensure that your application is in accordance with United States immigration law and precedents.  
  • File. Not only will we help you successfully file your application and supporting documents with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or State Department, but we will diligently keep you aware of developments during the processing stage. 
  • Win. By far the most fulfilling part of the process is winning. We are proud of our record of success and look forward to continuing this history of achievement with your company. 

Accomplish, Together

Our practice is dedicated to helping innovative and rapidly-scaling companies and startups secure legal immigration status for their key employees. Leveraging our breadth of experience and knowledge of industry trends, we have been able to help founders establish venture-backed companies in the United States and have worked with hiring managers at leading companies to hire the best and brightest talent in the world. With offices in Silicon Valley, CA and New York, NY, we have the resources available to help you secure the O-1A visa for key hires as quickly and efficiently as possible. To learn more about how an O-1A visa attorney from our team can help your business grow, consider contacting us at +1(855) 546-0015 today.


  • Fees
    • $460 filing fee for Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker)
    • $2,500 for Premium Processing service fee
        • *Fee increased in 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 the date of employment
    • I-797 Fee Receipt Notice
    • I-797 Approval Notice
    • Notify Consulate/Change Status/Extension of Stay
    • Visa – Foreign workers 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