O-1 Visa For Artists, Entertainers & Others Of Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 visa is for persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, entertainment, athletics, sciences, business and education. In actual fact, anyone who excels in his or her field or specialty can qualify for an O-1 visa.

Any artist, performer, entertainer, producer, or designer may apply for a full-time position if they meet the criteria for the visa. The O-1 visa is the perfect visa for visual and performing artists, designers and consultants who are typically self-employed. Such individuals do not usually have full-time permanent positions but rather work for multiple employers on short or long-term projects or ongoing temporary assignments.

The regulations provide that such individuals may use the services of a US agent and do not require a full-time permanent position or employer. Rather, they may have an agent sponsor them. Our office is able to provide agents for the limited purpose of filing an O-1 visa.

The O-1 visa is granted for a maximum period of three years. After that, the alien may apply for annual extensions, or may apply for a new three year visa.

The criteria for the O-1 visa are divided into separate categories as follows:

  • The Arts
  • Motion Picture Industry
  • Science, Business and Athletics

The Arts

The arts include, but are not limited to, fine, visual, culinary and performing arts. Essential personnel such as directors, choreographers, set designers, make-up artists, and stage technicians are included in this category.

Those in the arts must show “distinction” in their chosen fields, namely that they are prominent in their field, and have achieved a degree of skill and recognition over and above the general level. The applicant must show evidence of being nominated for, or being the recipient of, a significant national or international award, OR meet three of the following criteria:

  1. Has performed a leading or critical role in productions or events having a distinguished reputation;
  2. Has received critical reviews in newspapers, magazines or trade journals;
  3. Has performed a leading or critical role for organizations with a distinguished reputation;
  4. Has a record of major commercial or critically-acclaimed success;
  5. Has received significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field;
  6. Has commanded or will command a high salary;
  7. Comparable evidence may be submitted where the above categories do not apply.

Motion picture or TV industry

Those in the film and television industry are held to a higher standard than those in the arts although the same criteria are used. They must show a history of “extraordinary achievement” rather then mere “distinction.”

Science, Business and Athletics

Applicants in these areas must show that they are one of a small percentage to have reached the top of their field. They can show national or international acclaim through receipt of a major international award or show evidence that they meet three of the following criteria:

  1. Has received a nationally or internationally recognized award;
  2. Holds membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement;
  3. Published materials about applicant in professional or trade publications;
  4. Has served as a judge of the work of others;
  5. Has produced original scientific or scholarly work of major significance in their field;
  6. Is the author of scholarly work;
  7. Has been employed in a critical role by an entity with a distinguished reputation;
  8. Has received or will receive a high salary.

O-1 visas may be issued for a maximum period of three years. Thereafter, they may be extended indefinitely on an annual basis or a new three year visa may be obtained. As with most nonimmigrant visas, an alien in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status, such as B or F, may file for a change of status to O-1 without leaving the country. Alternatively, the alien may choose to return to his or her home country in order to receive an O-1 visa stamp in his or her passport at the U.S. Consulate.

O-2 visas are available for those accompanying the principal O-1 visa holder if their work is an integral part of the principal visa holder’s performance or artistic endeavors and they possess critical skills and experience that are not of a general nature and cannot be performed by other individuals.

The O-1 visa, the viable alternative to the H-1B…

In tune with the times, our office handles O-1 visas for those in the hi-tech fields of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”), cyber security, engineering, robotics, and internet-based applications.  We also represent entrepreneurs and start-ups in a variety of fields, including growth marketing, real estate development, health, medicine and the sciences.   

Spouses and children of O-1 visa holders are granted O-3 visas.

Note that is it possible to have concurrent O-1 visas. This can happen where the visa holder is already working for one employer on an O-1 visa and wishes to accept a second part-time position or to work through an agent on occasional temporary assignments. In such a situation, the agent would file for a second O-1 visa and the foreign national would then be authorized to work for two separate employers.

This office has successfully obtained O-1 visas for individuals in a wide array of fields, including:

  • University Professor;
  • Global Financial Strategist;
  • Veterinarian;
  • Architectural Designer;
  • Architect;
  • Art Director;
  • Variety Entertainer/Drag Artist;
  • Translator/Editor/Writer;
  • Video Artist/Videographer;
  • Photographer;
  • Photojournalist;
  • Stage and Screen Actor;
  • Voice-over Artist;
  • Radio & TV Announcer.
  • Decorative Artists;
  • Painter/Sculptor/Installation/Multimedia Artist;
  • Stage Manager;
  • Lighting/Sound Designer;
  • Set Designer;
  • Graphic Designer;
  • Motion Graphic Designer;
  • Animation Artist;
  • Illustrator;
  • Furniture Designer;
  • Industrial/Product Designer;
  • Jewelry Designer;
  • Musician/Composer/Songwriter;
  • DJ/Producer;
  • Fashion/Costume Designer;
  • Fashion Stylist;
  • Hair and Make-Up Artist;
  • Nail Artist;
  • Dancer, Singer and Choreographer;
  • Model.
  • Landscape Architects
  • Director of Programming
  • Product Manager
  • Software Engineer
  • UX Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • Digital Content Producer
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Speaker/Presenter
  • Conditioning Coach
  • Badminton Player
  • Musicologist
  • Tattoo Artist

The O-1 Visa Process

Our office has over 15 years’ experience in submitting O-1 visa applications for a variety of scientists, designers and artists, as well as architects and architectural designers. We know that thorough preparation and attention to detail is the key to success. It is advisable to have a professional review of your background and materials. Whilst an artist may not conform strictly to the O-1 criteria, there are alternative approaches that may work. Some cases require more work than others. Our office will conduct an intensive review of your materials to determine eligibility and requirements. In some instances, the applicant may need to obtain more evidence or experience before we determine that the case is strong enough. Some cases can be ready for filing within a few weeks, others take up to six months to prepare.

After reviewing your materials, our office will advise you what materials are needed to ensure a strong case. We will provide templates and examples appropriate for your particular case, and work with you to prepare the evidence. Our goal is submit a thoroughly documented case and to get a straight approval without receiving a Request for Evidence (“RFE”), which can create long delays. A Request for Evidence is issued where the Immigration Service deems that additional information or documentation is required in order to approve the case. 90% of our applications are approved without an RFE.

Amongst many other types of O-1 cases, we have been successfully processing O-1 visas for architects and architectural designers for many years. These cases are challenging since the Immigration Services holds architects and architectural designers to a high standard, even though they fall into the arts category.

Our office filed 76 O-1 visa applications in 2016 and 75 were approved, mostly without a Request for Evidence. See the Table below for details.

O-1 Cases Approved 2017
CountryTypeDate FiledDate Case ApprovedRFE?PP?
NorwayGraphic Designer1/3/20171/18/2017NN
JapanHair Stylist1/11/20171/18/2017NN
JapanBadminton Player11/14/20161/31/2017NN
JapanCostume Designer8/24/20152/7/2017YN
AustraliaMotion Graphic Designer2/14/20172/21/2017NN
JapanFashion Photographer2/17/20172/27/2017NN
KoreaGayageum Player2/21/20173/3/2017NN
ChinaArt Correspondent/Consultant/Writer/Critic3/2/20173/16/2017NN
JapanMultidisciplinary/Performance Artist3/10/20173/20/2017NN
IrelandPerforming Arts Consultant/Coordinator3/23/20173/31/2017NN
JapanGraphic Designer3/23/20174/5/2017NN
FranceFrench Pastry Chef4/5/20174/13/2017NN
SpainFashion Photographer/Video Director4/7/20174/17/2017NN
JapanSound Engineer/Designer4/10/20174/18/2017NN
JapanHair Stylist3/10/20174/19/2017YN
JapanHair Stylist4/20/20174/25/2017NN
AustraliaModel/Brand Ambassador5/1/20175/10/2017NN
ThailandSound Designer5/3/20175/15/2017NN
JapanHair Stylist5/9/20175/19/2017NN
JapanDJ Music Mixer5/23/20176/1/2017NN
ItalyVideo Director/Editor4/17/20176/3/2017YN
AustraliaSpa and Wellness Writer/Consultant6/1/20176/6/2017NN
ItalyBallet Dancer5/15/20176/12/2017NN
ArmeniaAssistant Professor6/16/20176/22/2017NN
United KingdomDancer and Teaching Artist6/6/20176/22/2017nN
JapanGraphic Designer6/14/20166/26/2017NN
JapanVideographer/ Video Editor6/21/20176/29/2017NN
KoreaLighting Designer6/20/20177/5/2017NN
KoreaFashion Photographer6/21/20177/5/2017NN
TaiwanDancer3/29/2017Denied -7/12/2017YN
JapanNail Artist6/29/20177/12/2017NN
JapanVisual Producer5/15/20177/10/2017YN
JapanDancer/Performing Teaching Artist7/12/20177/26/2017NN
South AfricaDancer6/27/20177/26/2017YN
PhilippinesTechnical Designer7/19/20177/27/2017NN
JapanLead Hair Stylist7/20/20177/28/2017NN
JapanLighting Designer7/25/20178/3/2017NN
KoreaOpera Singer8/22/20176/30/2018NY
JapanStage/Event/Production Manager and Coordinator8/11/20178/19/2017NN
CanadaWatercolor Painter8/14/20178/22/2017NN
BrazilBallet Dancer8/7/20178/24/2017YY
JapanHair Stylist8/10/20178/28/2017NN
koreaProduct Designer9/10/20179/9/2020NN
JapanHair Stylist7/12/20178/29/2017YN
KoreaVisual Designer8/21/20178/29/2017NN
United Kingdom3D and Animation Artist8/28/20179/8/2017NN
JapanBag and Accessories Designer8/29/20179/8/2017NN
KoreaFashion and Accessories Designer9/11/20179/18/2017NN
MexicoKnitwear Designer9/22/201710/2/2017NN
MorroccoArchitectural Designer9/21/201710/6/2017NN
JapaneseArchitectural Designer7/11/201710/17/2017YN
United KingdomPhtographer10/20/201710/30/2017NN
ChinaIndustrial Designer10/20/201711/1/2017NN
NetherlandsFashion Stylist10/23/201711/14/2017NN
JapanHair Stylist10/27/201711/06/2017NN
JapanHair Stylist11/1/201711/12/2017NN
IndiaDirector of Interaction Design11/1/201711/13/2017NN
CanadaMotivational Speaker and Presenter11/06/201711/15/2017NN
JapanFilm Director, Writer, Producer11/15/201711/27/2017NN
ItalyDance Manager, Event Organizer11/15/201712/4/2017NN
ScotlandStrength and Conditioning Coach/Consultant11/6/201711/21/2017NN
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