O Visa Overview: O-1A, O-1B, O-2 and O-3

Home » O Visa Overview: O-1A, O-1B, O-2 and O-3

O Visa Attorneys in Silicon Valley and New York

High-achieving foreign professionals are presented with unique opportunities to travel to the United States to work on a temporary basis. Every year, thousands of O-category visas are granted to individuals operating in the upper echelon of their respective fields. Obtaining these valuable visas requires a strongly crafted case and a high level of compelling evidence, however, leading many individuals and employers to seek assistance from experienced O-1 visa lawyers

At Alcorn Immigration Law, we prioritize efficiency, transparency, and quality in every aspect of our legal practice. Our immigration attorneys work tirelessly to handle all aspects of the immigration process, including filing, adjusting status, and applying for extensions for existing visas. Through our proven methodology and dedication to the success of our clients, we have achieved results for hundreds of clients across the globe. To discuss your case in greater detail, consider contacting us at +1(855) 546-0015 today.

There are four types of O Visas:

What Is the O-1A Visa?

Individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics may pursue this visa to work in the United States on a temporary basis. This visa is a particularly attractive option because, unlike other categories, there is no cap on the number of O-1A visas that can be granted in a year. This means that the O-1A visa timeline is typically faster than other visa categories, assuming the individual meets the strict eligibility requirements to qualify for this visa category.

The terminology of “extraordinary ability” implies that a foreign professional is among the small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their respective fields. This can be proven through the acquisition of an international award, including the Nobel Prize or the Turing Prize, for example. Otherwise, O-1A visa applicants must prove that they meet certain criteria, which can include membership in a widely recognized association, participation as a judge in their field, the authoring of academic papers, and/or major media coverage of their work, to name a few.

What Is the O-1B Visa?

Individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or who can demonstrate a high level of achievement in film or television may be eligible for the O-1B visa – a nonimmigrant visa that allows for temporary work in the United States. Eligibility requirements for this visa category necessitate that a person is able to prove that they are operating in the top percentile of their field. Receiving an internationally recognized award such as a Grammy or Oscar is sufficient proof, but individuals may still qualify based on other criteria.

The eligibility criteria for the O-1B visa are relatively flexible, specifically for individuals in the field of the arts. So long as the applicant can provide sufficient “comparable evidence” to the USCIS, they may be able to receive an O-1B visa. This means that your immigration attorney will likely be able to craft a compelling case based on your prospective employee’s unique background and expertise. Applicants in the field of film or television industries have a more structured set of eligibility requirements, which an experienced O-1 visa lawyer can provide further insight into.

Designed for individuals who possess extraordinary ability or achievement in the creative and entertainment industries, the O-1B visa is a popular option for UX/UI designers at tech companies and startups, for instance. Navigating the stringent eligibility requirements and extensive documentation associated with this visa can be daunting for many employers, and even small errors in the application can delay the process greatly. Our team of experienced O-1B visa attorneys understand the complexities and nuances of this visa category and regularly work alongside startups and established companies alike to secure legal immigration status for key employees.

As the O-1B visa is a temporary work visa, all applicants require a sponsor for their petition. This visa is contingent on the applicant’s employment in the United States, but the sponsor does not necessarily need to be the applicant’s employer. The sponsor can be an actual employer, an entity that professionally represents the employer or someone who acts on behalf of the applicant and their employer. Nonetheless, the sponsor must be based within the United States.

Examples of Petitioner/Beneficiary Relationships

Case Study 1: John is a UX/UI designer who is interested in working for a rapidly growing tech startup in Silicon Valley that was recently funded by a major venture capital firm. The tech startup is offering a full-time position and will serve as the petitioner for his O-1 visa. John only plans to work at the startup when he is in the United States. 

Case Study 2: Valeria is a special effects artist who was offered a dream position at a leading global animation studio. The position is only part-time, with 15 hours of work per week. Valeria has other opportunities in mind as a freelancer, but she does not want to miss out on this position. The studio offers to file an O-1 visa as her employer petitioner.  If Valeria intends to pursue additional work outside of her role with the company, she must ensure that her O-1 is properly set up and consider multiple concurrent O-1s as well as potentially working with an agent-petitioner.

O-2 Visa

O-2 status is for individuals who will accompany an O-1B artist or an O-1A athlete. They must assist the principal in a specific event or performance.

O-3 Visa Change of Status for Spouses

Spouses of O-1 visa holders are eligible for O-3 status which allows them to accompany their O-1 partner and legally live in the United States. However, O-3 dependents are not able to work in the United States, and employment is considered a violation of the visa status and may carry severe penalties. Instead, once in the United States, these dependents may seek a Change of Status to another immigration category that permits employment, such as the H-1B. Keep in mind that changing to a different work visa means that the O-3 visa holder’s immigration status is no longer tied to the O visa employee. 

Alternatively, it is entirely possible to begin the Green Card application process shortly after or in tandem with applying for an O-1 visa to obtain permanent residence in the United States. If successful, an O-3 spouse will be able to work in the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident and seek an Employment Authorization Document through the Adjustment of Status process along the way. Your experienced O visa attorneys can work with you to navigate the Green Card application process so that you can not only live but also work in the United States permanently.

O-3 status is for individuals who are the spouse and dependent children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.

O Visas for Extraordinary Ability and Achievement

If you are an individual with extraordinary achievements in your field and you want to temporarily visit the U.S., you might be eligible for the O visa! O Visas are a great fit for extraordinarily talented individuals, their assistants, and families, to come to the United States temporarily to work in their field.

There are two main types of O Visas:  the right one for you depends on your field of ability.  The O-1A is for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.  The O-1B is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

How Does the Application Process Work?

Once your team of O-1B visa attorneys confirms eligibility for your visa, you may begin the application process. This involves preparing and organizing all necessary documents to be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The filing location that you use will depend on which state your primary office is located in. 

O-1 processing times are somewhat shorter than other visa categories, taking anywhere from three weeks to a few months to complete. However, The USCIS offers premium processing for a fee of $2,500, which guarantees a decision within 15 calendar days. Your legal team can provide further insight on how to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, to expedite the application process and secure the O-1B visa as swiftly as possible.

Am I eligible?

You may be eligible if you can show extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, or a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry, and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. We recommend that you provide lots of documentation of your previous accomplishments with your petition! 

Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of a small percentage at the top of your field. 

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, you must demonstrate extraordinary achievement. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that you are recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

What are the Criteria for an O-1B Visa?

Think you qualify? Your employer or agent should work with a qualified immigration attorney to prepare and file the application on your behalf. Either you have won a major internationally recognized award, such as an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize, OR you have accomplished at least three of the following:

  • received a nationally recognized prize or award for excellence
  • attained membership in associations that require outstanding achievements of their members in a particular field of expertise, as judged by recognized national or international experts
  • been the subject of published material in professional or major trade publications or major media (regarding you and your work)
  • participated, on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in your field
  • made an original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contribution of major significance to the field
  • authored scholarly articles in professional journals or major media
  • been previously employed in a critical or essential capacity for an organization with a distinguished reputation, or
  • command or have commanded a high salary or other outstanding remuneration for your services.

For the O-1B Extraordinary Ability in the Arts, you will need to show that you have been nominated for or have received significant national or international awards or prizes in a particular field, such as an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award. Alternatively, the employer filing the petition can submit at least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publication contracts, or endorsements
  • evidence that the applicant has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the person in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials
  • evidence that the applicant has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes (as evidenced by the title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures, or television ratings) and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications
  • evidence that the applicant has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field. Such testimonials must be in a form that clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the applicant’s achievements, and
  • evidence that the applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services, as compared to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence.

Is There a Path to Permanent Residence?

The O-1 visas provide an excellent opportunity for those who wish to gain permanent residence in the United States via the employment-based Green Card categories. The O-1B visa is a dual intent visa, meaning there is no penalty for pursuing an application for permanent residence while simultaneously holding this nonimmigrant work visa. This is unlike some other visa categories that prohibit a path to permanent residence.

How Long Are O-1 Visas Granted?

Like other visa categories, O-1 visas expire after a certain amount of time. O-1 visas are granted for an initial period of three years. It is possible to apply for extensions for both the O-1A and O-1B visas. The O-1A visa can be extended if needed to accomplish the initial event or activity that the individual traveled to the United States to pursue. In fact, there is no time limit on the duration of the O-1 visas. So long as the work continues, the visa may be extended. 

The O-1 visa can be extended in one-year increments, and the soonest that an extension can be applied for is six months prior to the current expiration date. To apply for an extension of the O-1 visa, the individual’s employer or agent is required to file the Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, a copy of Form 1-94 Arrival/Departure Record, and a statement detailing the reason for an extension. If the USCIS can determine that the applicant has a compelling reason to remain in the United States, they will typically grant the extension. 

How Does the O-1 Visa Differ from the H-1B Visa?

While both the O-1 visa and the H-1B visa are utilized by foreign professionals to work in the United States on a temporary basis, there are key differences between the two categories. Perhaps the most significant difference between the two visa categories is the eligibility criteria. The H-1B visa is designed for individuals performing services in a specialty occupation and requires a certain level of educational attainment. The O-1 visa, on the other hand, is for individuals who exhibit extraordinary ability in their field. There are no educational requirements or limitations placed on occupation. As long as the applicant is operating at the top of their field and can demonstrate their extraordinary abilities and/or achievements, they may be considered for an O-1 visa. 

In addition, there are also nuanced differences in the timeframe for filing petitions with the USCIS, extension requirements, and the option of portability. Portability refers to the ability of the employee to transfer to a new employer. H-1B visa holders are eligible for portability, assuming their new employer submits a petition to the USCIS. O-1 visa requirements necessitate that the new employer files another petition for new employment. For more detailed information regarding which visa category may most effectively further your goals, consider speaking with an experienced O-1 visa lawyer at Alcorn Immigration Law. 

How to Choose the Right Immigration Attorney for Your Needs

The attorney you choose to provide guidance throughout the immigration process can significantly impact the efficiency of your case as well as your prospective employee’s likelihood of approval. The right attorney will work diligently to understand your needs and develop a legal strategy to most effectively optimize your goals and objectives. They will avoid one-size-fits-all methodologies. Rather, they will tailor their approach to your business’s unique background, industry, and professional goals. 

The process of hiring an immigration attorney often involves several conversations and consultations before finding the right legal counsel for you. During these initial conversations, it can be helpful to ask potential O-1 visa lawyers the following questions: 

  • What is your firm’s approval rating for immigration cases? 
  • Do you have experience handling cases similar to mine?
  • What is the anticipated time frame and schedule for my application?
  • How do you plan to mitigate risk during the petition process?
  • What is your typical method of communication with clients?

It is important that you feel comfortable with your attorney and confident in their ability to handle your case efficiently and proficiently. The legal representation you choose can make or break your case, thus having a significant impact on your ability to meet your goals and gainfully pursue your work in the United States. 

How to Select the Right O-1B Visa Attorneys For Your Case

Selecting the right O-1B visa attorneys will make all the difference in the ease of the process, as well as the outcome of your case. During your initial consultation with prospective attorneys, it can be helpful to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • The attorney possesses industry expertise. Industry expertise is particularly important for O-1B visa applications. An attorney with the proper experience and insight will be able to assess the professional background of the applicant to form the strongest case possible. They will have a comprehensive knowledge of industry trends that informs their work and the solutions they offer for your case. Leveraging this expertise, your attorney will be able to offer tailored solutions to better optimize the outcome of your application and most effectively mitigate risk along the way. 
  • They prioritize your interests. Beware of attorneys who do not take the time to review your needs and expectations to tailor a solution to meet your goals. A legal team that sees your case as another number in the system will not prioritize your interests, your company’s growth, or the culture of your business. 
  • They work with integrity. Securing an O-1B visa is no simple feat; it requires diligence, careful attention to detail, and effective risk management. Find an attorney who is forthright about the challenges you may face along the way and transparent about all facets of the process. 

Immigration Law for Tech Startups

We are proud to offer Immigration Law for Tech Startups: an informative, conversation-based podcast that showcases the most compelling and up-to-date immigration law strategies in the entrepreneurial space. Our goal is to provide the resources necessary to help empower rapidly-scaling tech companies, established corporate companies, and highly motivated entrepreneurs from around the globe to hire the world’s best and brightest talent. With new conversations every two weeks, the Immigration Law for Tech Startups podcast will spark new ideas and invigorate the growth of your company. Listen on your streaming platform of choice today

The Alcorn Method

After spending over a decade working alongside startups, founders, and other corporate professionals, we have come to understand what works and what does not. All of our success has culminated in the Alcorn Method. This four-step approach is used by our team of O-1B visa attorneys to handle each case in the most streamlined and efficient manner possible. The Alcorn Method is comprised of four stages: 

  • Strategize: Beginning with a comprehensive review of the case, we will assess your business’s structure, growth trajectory, and other key metrics to determine how the O-1B employee will benefit your company and qualify for the O-1B. Balancing this with their skills, expertise, and experience, we will offer recommendations for how to optimize your outcome and mitigate risk along the way.
  • Prepare: Ensuring that all necessary documents are organized is key to submitting an error-free application. We will work with you to compile all paperwork and supporting documents according to the rules and regulations of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or State Department.
  • File: Submitting an error-free application is critical to the success of your case. We will review your application prior to submission and keep you up to date on key developments of your case during the processing stage.
  • Win: Across the board, winning is every client’s favorite step. At Alcorn Immigration Law, we are proud of our record of success and have achieved favorable outcomes for thousands of clients since our practice’s inception.

Accomplish, Together

With decades of combined experience representing C-suite executives, hiring managers, and startup founders, winning is ingrained in the culture of our practice. Through our proven approach, breadth of industry knowledge, and dedication to integrity and transparency, we have assisted thousands of founders and corporate professionals with the O-1B visa process.

How an Immigration Attorney from Alcorn Immigration Law Can Help You

Above all, our team of experienced O-1 visa lawyers is passionate about overcoming borders, expanding opportunities, and connecting the world through comprehensive immigration services. As the fastest-growing immigration firm in Silicon Valley with offices in New York, we understand the importance of balancing your company’s need for efficiency with your employee’s desire to further their own short- and long-term goals. To get in touch regarding your immigration needs, consider connecting with Alcorn Immigration Law at +1(855) 546-0015 today.