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Are You Extraordinary? O-1A Temporary Work Visas

O-1 visas are for those that have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry. The visas are commonly referred to as O-1A visas for those in the sciences, education, business and athletics and O-1B visas for those in the arts, motion picture and television industries. This article with focus and provide an overview for the O-1A visas.

O-1A provides temporary work visas for those who have risen to the top of their field of endeavor in the sciences, education, business, and athletic fields. In order to qualify, the alien must demonstrate that they have received either a major internationally recognized award, such as a Noble Prize or similar or must demonstrate that they meet at least 3 of the following criteria.

  • Has received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in their field of endeavor.
  • Hold membership in a professional industry association which requires 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 the alien, which describes their work or achievement.
  • Served as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought which can be done either individually or as a member of a panel.
  • Has done original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance to their field of endeavor.
  • Has authored scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other media.
  • Is or has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Commands a high salary or other remuneration as compared to others in the field.

Furthermore, while the event or position for which the alien will be working in does not have to require the skills of someone with extraordinary ability or achievement, the alien must intend to work in the area where they have the extraordinary ability or achievement. O-1A petitions can be initially approved for up to 3 years and extensions can be approved for in 3 year increments.

The O-1A alien’s spouse and children are eligible for O-3 visas, and those on O-3 visas are not eligible for employment authorization.

There are many benefits to the O-1A visa. For instance, there is not a limit to how many O-1A visas can be issued in any given year, unlike the H-1B. Furthermore, so long as the alien continues to meet the requirements for an O-1A visa, there is no year limit on how long they can remain in the United States on the visa. O-1A visas, like the H-1B, are dual intent visas, so they allow holders of O-1A visas to pursue permanent resident in the United States. Additionally, while having an approved O-1A visa does not automatically mean that the applicant will also qualify for an EB1 immigrant petition if he decides to apply for permanent residence, it usually makes the EB1 petition process slightly easier because of the similarity of the criteria between the O-1A and the EB1.

However, there are some disadvantages to the O-1A visa. The standard is higher than other work visas and demonstrating at least 3 of the criteria usually requires a lot of documentary evidence, which can increase the amount of time required to put the petition together to submit. Another disadvantage is that since the O-1A requires sustained national or international acclaim in the field of endeavor, it can be hard for those aliens who are early in their careers to provide the evidence to meet the standard for the O-1A. Thus, it is always best to consult with an immigration attorney to see if this is an option for your situation.