FAQs: Extraordinary Ability Visas

Frequently Asked Questions About O-1 and EB-1 Visas

Both the O-1 and EB-1 visa categories are designed for individuals with extraordinary abilities in their respective fields. Whether it’s arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics, applicants must demonstrate exceptional expertise and recognition.

  • An O-1 is a temporary work visa in the U.S. (renewable for up to 3-year increments), and an EB-1A is a petition for permanent residence (AKA the basis for a green card). Both are employment-based petitions for individuals of extraordinary ability. The EB-1 petition allows you to self-sponsor, so an employer is not required to sponsor you for this type of green card case. The O-1 does require employment offers for work to be performed in the US.

  • Generally, there are two types of recommendation letters used for an O-1 case: Letters from experts in the industry and letters from those who have worked with you and have firsthand knowledge of your achievements and contributions to your employer.

  • It usually takes 2-3 months to prepare an O-1 petition at our office. Once the petition is finalized, we submit the petition to the appropriate unions and/or labor organizations for the required advisory opinions.  This takes between 1-2 weeks on average.  Then, the O-1 petition is submitted to the USCIS for processing.

    • Standard Processing – avg. 2-4 months, but there is no fixed turnaround time.  We have seen some cases approved in a week and others in a year!  But, usually, a decision (or Request for Evidence) is issued within 2-4 months.

    • Premium Processing – 15 calendar days
  • Yes- an O-1 petition can be prepared with a single employer, or with multiple employers.  It is important to discuss the details with a lawyer to ensure you are maximizing the benefits of a multiple employer O-1.

  • In short, yes.  But the O-1 visa is a work visa that allows you to work with specific employers in the US.  Employment outside the US, even for a US employer, does not require a US work visa. However, if you have a foreign employer who requires you to work in the U.S. (ex: a film production company abroad that wants to film in the U.S.), a deal memo for the foreign employer should be included in the petition and is permissible.

  • O-1A: Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field. For detailed information regarding how USCIS evaluates evidence to determine O-1A eligibility, including examples and considerations that are especially relevant for those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, see the USCIS Policy Manual Volume 2, Part M, Chapter 4, Section C, and Appendix: Satisfying the O-1A Evidentiary Requirements.

    O-1B: 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. For detailed information on how USCIS evaluates evidence to determine O-1B eligibility, including examples and considerations, see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 2, Part M, Chapter D and Appendix: Satisfying the O-1B Evidentiary Requirements.

  • Consular processing refers to applying for a visa stamp at a US Consulate outside the US.  When you apply for your O-1 visa while abroad, consular processing is usually the only option.  First, you will submit a petition to USCIS; once that is approved, you apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate outside of the U.S., attend an interview, and obtain your O-1 visa stamp in your passport after your application is approved by the adjudicating consulate.  Then, when you enter the US with the O-1 visa stamp, you are in O-1 visa status.  

    o   A change of status is a request to the USCIS when filing the O-1 petition to have your status changed from another visa type (e.g. F-1, B-2, etc.) to the O-1. If you are in the U.S. in lawful nonimmigrant visa status, you can apply to change your status to O-1 while in the U.S.  This means you are in O-1 status once the USCIS approves your O-1 petition.  You only need the O-1 visa stamp the next time you leave the US.  So, at that time, you would schedule an appointment for your O-1 visa stamp at a consulate outside the U.S.

  • The O-1 petitioner must be a U.S. entity: any US Company, US Citizen or US Permanent Resident.

  • No.  O-1Bs are for creatives – artists, actors, directors, editors, authors, journalists, etc.  O-1As are for those with extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, or athletics.

  • Not necessarily. The EB-1A and O-1 visa categories have some overlapping categories, which can make it a little easier to file for the EB-1A, especially if you have already obtained an O-1 visa. However, in general, the EB-1A has a much higher standard of extraordinary ability than the O-1.

  • No, you are not required to have an underlying O-1 visa status before filing for the EB-1A. However, many of our clients do apply for the O-1 first since it is easier to obtain than the EB-1A and puts them in a better position to strategically start working on their EB-1A.