The O-1A non-immigrant visa is designed for individuals who possesses extraordinary ability in the fields of the sciences, education, business and athletics, which has been nationally or internationally recognized through major awards or their achievements, to stay and work in their specialized fields in the United States on a temporary basis. The spouses and children under age of 21 of the qualifying O-1A holders may be admitted to the United States for companion while work permit would not be available to them. Although no annual numerical quota limitation imposed on O-1A Visa, requirements of extraordinary ability and supporting documentation serve as a filter for applicants. However, as a dual-intent visa, O-1A Visa may serve as a knocking stone for qualifying professionals to pursue their potential permanent residence.
To qualify for O-1A Visa, the petitioner must demonstrate that:
Individuals who hold nationally or internationally recognized extraordinary ability in the fields of sciences, education, business and athletics may be eligible for this type of O-1A Visa.
USCIS grants a priority visa to foreign individuals who demonstrates “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, education, business, or athletics areas to bring their expertises to advance the U.S. market. Extraordinary ability means a level of expertise that the individuals are the ones of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. Evidence must be presented to support the O-1A petition, which may either be an one-time, major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize or an Olympic Medal, or the comparable achievement of at least three of the following criteria:
In case the evidence demonstrating the above mentioned criteria, other comparable evidence may be shown to establish the eligibility while it is subject to the USCIS’ adjudication on a case by case basis.
In addition to the above documentation, the individuals with extraordinary ability have to go through consultation process to obtain an official written advisory opinion from a U.S. organization or an expert in the area of extraordinary ability for O-1A petition, which indicating the necessity of the individuals’ extraordinary ability for the employed position. However, such consultation requirement would be waived if the petitioners show that an appropriate peer group does not exist.
Furthermore, O-1A Visa, which falls under classification of temporary work visa, requires the employer’s employment and sponsorship, and may not be self-petitioned by the individuals with extraordinary ability. A qualifying sponsor may either be the individuals’ direct employers or agents or managers. The people, organizations or companies the individuals with extraordinary ability directly serves would be their direct employers and they may only work for direct employers. On the other hand, the individuals with extraordinary ability may appoint agents or managers to represent and obtain works, and have such agents or managers file O-1A petitions on behalf of them. A U.S. Agent may be the actual employer of the individual, the representative of both the employer and the individual, or a person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent. In this case, the individuals with extraordinary ability may simultaneously work for other employers during the validity of their O-1A Visa, provided the sponsoring agents’ or managers’ representation continuously remain.
Being a dual-intent visa, O-1A holders are allowed to pursue permanent residency during the validity of O-1A Visa. Since O-1A Visa shares the similar criteria with EB-1A Visa for alien with extraordinary ability and immigration purpose, most of O-1A holders would subsequently apply for EB-1A immigrant visa, which circulates the requirement of labor certification and thus provides a faster permanent residence path.
Noted that due to strict supporting documentation requirement, O-1A Visa is by far one of the most difficult visas to get. A professional consultant’s opinions and strategy is highly recommended to seek for.
An initial stay of up to three years with indefinite extensions of up to one year thereafter, provided the extension is needed to have the events or activities performed, would be granted to the qualified individuals with extraordinary ability. Generally, the petition of extension does not require new consultation and advisory opinion. However, in case of change of employer or position, which is deemed to be a new event, all petitioning documentation would be needed and the validity of O-1A granted would be initially a period of stay of up to three years.
The O-1A holders’ spouses and children under the age of 21 may accompany and follow them to the United States under O-3 Visa of the same period of stay as the O-1A holders would be granted therefore, which may be for an initial period of up to three years with indefinite extensions subject to O-1A holders’ approved extensions. However, O-3 holders are not allowed to work in the United States.
Such dependents may simultaneously file O-3 petition for change of status with the the O-1A petition for individuals with extraordinary ability if they are already in the United States. On the other hand, they have to wait to file O-3 petition after O-1A petition being approved in the U.S. Consulate Process.