The O-1 Temporary Worker Visa is a US work visa which allows US employers to hire foreign workers who possess extraordinary ability. The definition of extraordinary ability is extremely broad and can encompass almost any field of endeavor. Our firm has successfully petitioned for O-1 visas for chefs, athletes, actors, artists, business individuals and individuals in many other fields.
The O-1 visa has 2 subcategories. The O-1A visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, whereas the O-1B visa is available to individuals with demonstrated records of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.
The O-1 visa is a Non-immigrant visa which can be given only on the basis of individual qualifications. Membership in a group or team is not by itself enough sufficient for the visa to be granted. In addition, an individual must be going to work or perform at an event or a series of events in the specific area of their extraordinary ability. The term "event" is interpreted liberally outside the fields of athletics and arts, which can include, for example, an ongoing research project for a private company.
The O-1 visa can be granted initially for a period of up to 3 years and can thereafter be extended in one-year increments indefinitely. The spouse and children of the O-1 visa holder will receive O-3 visas which allow them to live and study in the United States. However, they cannot accept employment.
O-1 is an employment related status and you cannot apply for it directly. You must first have an offer of employment associated with your field of extraordinary ability. Your employer would then petition on your behalf, which can be done up to six months before the intended starting date.
An individual must meet 3 of the 8 criteria for the O-1A visa, or 3 of the 6 criteria for the O-1B visa to qualify as an individual of “extraordinary ability,” or alternatively have won a major internationally recognized award. Check out how the USCIS summarized the criteria for determining “Extraordinary Ability" and our comments.
O-1 is an employment related status and cannot be applied for directly. An individual must first have an offer of employment from a United States sponsor associated with their field of extraordinary ability. Ownership interest in the petitioning employer may not preclude the filing of the O-1 petition.
The definition of “sponsor” is flexible. A sponsor may be the individual’s direct employer, a US agent, an individual authorized by a foreign employer to act as their agent or an agent for multiple employers. The sponsor files the petition on the employee’s behalf, which can be done up to six months before the intended starting date. The O-1 visa is an excellent way for a United States employer to bring high quality foreign personnel to work in their businesses. Any United States employer may hire a foreign O-1 employee, even a one-person business. There are no requirements regarding the size or income of the United States employer-sponsor.
The different types of sponsors are elaborated below:
A sponsor may have a traditional employer-employee relationship with the O-1 visa holder, employing them full time and paying them hourly or a salary and treating them largely as they would most other employees.
An agent may be the employer of traditionally self-employed individuals and may arrange multiple short-term assignments that the individual may perform for multiple clients.
For example, an agent-sponsor for a performer may regularly arrange performances and appearances for the O-1 visa holder.
In this case, a foreign employer would hire a US agent to sponsor one of their employees for an O-1 visa. The foreign employer would generally have a contract with the US agent-sponsor wherein the agent-sponsor would be remunerated for their services as an agent from the earnings of the O-1 individual’s contracts with US clients.
Returning to our example of the O-1 performer: A foreign company who regularly employs performers may contract a US agent to sponsor one of their extraordinary performers for an O-1 visa and thereafter to act as the O-1 performer’s agent. The agent-sponsor would then regularly seek out performances and engagements for the O-1 performer and be remunerated per their contract with the foreign employer.
In this case, an agent-sponsor is contracted by multiple different employers to sponsor a foreign individual for an O-1 visa, and the O-1 visa holder may perform services for any of the US employers included in the petition.
The advantage to this is that it is one of the very few circumstances where an individual on a work visa may work for multiple employers at once.
The O-1 visa has a number of advantages compared to other visas and processes for bringing foreign employees to the United States.
Several advantages are:
A disadvantage of the O-1 visa is that the employer is liable for the O-1 visa holder’s return flight to their country of last habitual residence if the employment if terminated for any reason other than the individual’s voluntary resignations (sickness, disability, firing, sponsor goes bankrupt, Act of God, etc.) Vazquez & Poudat, PLLC has an experienced team in place to assist both employee and employer with assembling all the necessary elements for the O-1 visa petition and application.
We frequently receive questions about the O-1 visa and its requirements. In an effort to help you obtain as much information needed as possible, we have compiled those that we think are the most commonly asked questions. So please feel free to visit our O-1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions page to find more information on this subject or contact us directly.
If you think you may qualify for an O visa contact us today. Our professional team is dedicated to helping individuals with all of their migration needs, including O visa applications. Suzanne Vazquez and Maud Poudat, Board certified by the FL Bar as experts in Immigration and Nationality Law, are very experienced and have helped many clients in the past. Call our Immigration Law Firm today during office hours at (407) 674-6968 and we will be glad to help you. If you have an emergency after office hours please call us at (407) 925-2554 and we will contact you shortly. You may also fill in the online form provided in this page or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our O1 Visa Attorneys in Orlando will get back to you as soon as possible.