Explained: What is O-1 US visa and who is eligible?

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According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, petitions in this category have been on the rise since 2015, with the department receiving 26,507 applications in 2019.

Explained: What is O-1 US visa and who is eligible?
The US grants O-1 non-immigrant visas to individuals with extraordinary ability in the field of sciences, arts, education, business, medicine, or athletics. Film or television artistes who have been recognised nationally or internationally can also apply for this visa.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the petitions in this category have been on the rise since 2015, with the department receiving 26,507 petitions in 2019.
Who is eligible?
Under the O-1A visa, only individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics can apply. People with recognised accomplishments in arts or the motion picture or television industry, must apply under the O-1B visa category.
There is also the O-2 visa, which is for individuals who assist the O-1 holders in a specific event or performance. The O-3 visa is for individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.
An individual must have demonstrated, or bagged national or international acclaim, or have a proven record of extraordinary achievement in the film and television industry. Furthermore, one can only apply for a temporary period. The visa is generally for a period of three years.
An O-2 visa applicant has to prove only they can help the O-1 visa holder. The assistance provided by the O-2 applicant cannot be of a general nature and it must be proved that even a US provider cannot offer this specialised service.
As the visa is very specific to a few categories, the applicant must fulfil at least three of the following criteria to be eligible:
  1. Should have bagged national or international awards or prizes of excellence in their respective field.
  2. Should be a member of associations whose membership requires outstanding achievement and are judged by nationally or internationally recognised experts in the respective field.
  3. Should have their work featured in professional or high-profile trade publications, or mainstream media.
  4. Must have served in some capacity as a judge of others in the same (or closely related) field in either individual capacity or as part of a judging panel.
  5. Should have articles published in professional or notable trade publications or must have published original scientific, academic, or business contributions of major significance in their fields.
  6. May have served in a leading or critical capacity for highly regarded organisations or establishments and been compensated with a high salary or remuneration for their services.
  7. Can provide relevant evidence of exceptional expertise that does not fit any of the above criteria.
  8. How long can one stay in the US on an O-1 Visa?
    One can stay for a period of three years. After the three-year period, an applicant can extend their stay by applying for an extension of up to one year.
    How can one file for the visa?
    An application must be filed by the employer or agent on the applicant's behalf.
    The following steps have to be followed:
    Form I-129 must be submitted and a petition for a non-immigrant worker to USCIS made. The applicant must provide necessary documents and pay the application fees. After this, the Form DS-160 must be filled and a payment made by way of O-1 visa fees. This is followed by an interview with the US Embassy, and handover of relevant documents, after which the visa is processed. It takes nearly three months for the visa to be processed. One can opt for the premium processing, which is thrice the cost of the normal visa fee.