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.

The charts below shows O-1 Approvals from January 2018 to March 2019.


CountryType of artistDate FiledDate Case ApprovedRFE?PP?
Japan Composer November 6, 2018January 14, 2019No No
SwedenLandscape ArchitectJanuary 14, 2019January 17, 2019No No
ChinaPhotographer/Videographer/EditorJune 26, 2018January 17, 2019YesNo
SpainArchitectural DesignerDecember 24, 2018January 24, 2019No No
ItalyDancerJanuary 13, 2019January 23, 2019No No
MacedoniaAssociate director/Social Entreprenuer ExpertJanuary 8, 2019January 28, 2019No No
SingaporeMusic ProducerDecember 14, 2018January 16, 2019No No
GermanyGraphic DesignerDecember 28, 2018January 28, 2019No No
Japan Video media server manager/ specialistOctober 30, 2018February 2, 2019YesNo
Japan Multidisciplinary ArtistDecember 20, 2018January 26, 2019No No
SwitzerlandcuratorJune 26, 2018January 26, 2019No No
South KoreaFine Art PhotographerJune 4, 20181/28/2019
(corrected approval notice)
No No
ChinaCuratorDecember 26, 2018January 7, 2019
Japan Fashion Creative AdvisorFebruary 14, 2019April 19, 2022No No
AustraliaPianist/Vocal CoachAugust 27, 2018February 21, 2019Yes Yes
South KoreaSet DesignerAugust 27, 2018February 25, 2019YesNo
ItalyVideographer/ProducerAugust 20, 2018February 25, 2019YesNo
Japan Graphic Desinger February 22, 201929/28/2019 No No
Japan Pianist August 27, 2018February 28, 2019Yes No
Denmark Commercial Film Director December 7, 2018March 8, 2019YesNo
Japan Composer/MusicianJanuary 31, 2019March 12, 2019YesYes
UKLead Dancer/Teaching ArtistDecember 26, 2018April 1, 2019No Yes
UKResearch DirectorMarch 12, 2019April 1, 2019No No
SpainArchitectural DesignerSeptember 4, 2018February 14, 2019YesNo
CroatiaChief Executive OfficerOctober 29, 2018December 26, 2018No No
Japan Illustrator/Graphic ArtistOctober 17, 2018March 22, 2019YesNo
BrazilPhotographerJanuary 31, 2019March 12, 2019YesNo
ChinaArchitectural DesignerJanuary 7, 2019January 14, 2019No Yes


CountryType of artistDate FiledDate Case ApprovedRFE?PP?
India Illustrator/AnimatorOctober 4, 2017January 3, 2018No No
Japan Musician December 27, 2017January 4, 2018No No
Lebanon Product Manager December 26, 2017January 4, 2017No Yes
UK Painter August 10, 2017January 10, 2018YesNo
Lebanon Software EngineerJanuary 8, 2018January 16, 2018No Yes
Japan Photographer January 2, 2018January 18, 2018No No
China Product DesignerJanuary 11, 2018January 19, 2018No No
Japan Illustrator January 28, 2017January 19, 2018No No
Japan Visual ProducerDecember 27, 2017January 29, 2018No No
Japan Graphic Designer February 4, 2018February 15, 2018No Yes
China ArchitectJanuary 31, 2018February 13, 2018No No
Philippines Technical Apparel Designer January 31, 2018February 14, 2018no No
BangladeshiArchitectJanuary 24, 2018February 9, 2018No No
Italy Dancer/Choreographer/Model October 16, 2017February 26, 2018YesNo
Italy Pianist February 1, 2018February 16, 2018No No
Japan ActorFebruary 20, 2018February 28, 2018No No
Japan Composer March 16, 2018March 27, 2018No No
China Landscape Architectural DesignerFebruary 23, 2018March 16, 2018No No
Japan Garden Curator February 27, 2018March 6, 2018No Yes
Japan Director of ProgrammingFebruary 27, 2018March 7, 2018No Yes
Japan Multidisciplinary Artist March 6, 2018March 14, 2018No No
Japan Art DirectorMarch 9, 2018March 20, 2018No No
Canada Photographer October 11, 2017February 18, 2018Yes No
Singapore Curator March 20, 2018March 28, 2018No Yes
Spain Classical Pianist April 13, 2018April 26, 2018No No
Korea ArchitectApril 25, 2018May 1, 2018No Yes
Japan Photographer April 26, 2018May 2, 2018No No
Australia Multidisciplinary Artist April 18, 2018May 1, 2018No No
Japan Multidisciplinary Artist April 26, 2018May 4, 2018No No
Mexico Performing Artist/Mexican Folk Dancer May 1, 2018May 10, 2018No No
Japan Visual Producer/Director April 30, 2018May 19, 2018No No
India VP of Growth April 27, 2018May 16, 2018No No
Canada Recording Artist/Sound Engineer/Drumer April 23, 2018May 18, 2018No No
Korea Architectural DesignerMay 11, 2018May 23, 2018No No
Brazil Contemporary MusicianMay 16, 2018May 24, 2018No No
PakistanBuild Automation EngineerMay 8, 2018May 25, 2018No No
China Landscape Architectural DesignerMay 18, 2018May 30, 2018No No
Korea Regional AssociateMay 16, 2018June 7, 2018No No
Brazil Contemporary MusicianMay 16, 2018June 7, 2018No No
Japan Photographer/Videographer May 15, 2018June 6, 2018No No
Canada Variety Entertainer May 15, 2018June 6, 2018No No
UK Lead Dancer/ Teaching Artist May 18, 2018June 5, 2018No No
Czechoslovakia Wedding Photographer March 9, 2018June 26, 2018No No
Japan Lighting Desinger June 1, 2018June 25, 2018No No
Japan Visual Producer/Director June 1, 2018June 25, 2018No No
Australia Dancer June 1, 2018June 25, 2018No No
Lima Architectural and Urban DesignerMarch 21, 2018June 29, 2018Yes No
Japan Sound Designer June 5, 2018June 29, 2018No No
Japan Hair Stylist June 20, 2018July 2, 2018No No
South Korea Opera Singer June 26, 2018July 17, 2018No No
Japan Hair Stylist July 2, 2018July 12, 2018No No
China User Experience DesignerJuly 2, 2018July 12, 2018No No
India VP of Product/UX DesignJuly 2, 2018July 12, 2018No No
Japan Lighting Desinger July 2, 2018July 16, 2018No No
Spain Set/Prduction Designer July 2, 2018July 16, 2018No No
Italy Music Historian July 10, 2018July 23, 2018No No
Korea Music Composer/Producer March 25, 2018July 30, 2018Yes No
Russia DancerJuly 23, 2018August 23, 2018No No
Japan Multidisciplinary Artist July 20, 2018September 1, 2018No No
Japan Dancer August 27, 2018September 10, 2018No No
Japan Ballet Dancer August 13, 2018September 6, 2018No No
Japan Photographer August 1, 2018August 31, 2018No No
Australia Speaker/PresenterJuly 23, 2018September 25, 2018Yes No
Japan Actor August 30, 2018September 11, 2018No Yes
Australia Performing Horse RiderJuly 25, 2018August 27, 2018No No
England Actor/Narrator/Teaching ArtistAugust 15, 2018September 12, 2018No No
France Fashion Photographer August 21, 2018September 14, 2018No No
Japan Hair Stylist August 21, 2018September 18, 2018No No
Japan Photographer September 4, 2018September 27, 2018No No
South Korea Fine Art PhotographerSeptember 17, 2018September 28, 2018No No
UK Photographer September 14, 2018October 4, 2018No No
GermanyGraphic DesignerJuly 5, 2018August 12, 2018No No
IndonesiaStudio Manager / PhotographerSeptember 14, 2018October 2, 2018No No
France Dancer September 10, 2018October 2, 2018No No
ChinaArchitectSeptember 28, 2018October 5, 2018No No
ChinaArchitectAugust 1, 2018August 27, 2018No No
SwitzerlandSound DesignerSeptember 4, 2018October 12, 2018No No
Japan Architect August 20, 2018October 23, 2018No No
Italy Dancer/Choreographer/ModelOctober 12, 2018October 25, 2018No No
Thailand Graphic Designer September 4, 2018October 29, 2018No No
Japan Painter September 11, 2018October 15, 2018No No
Italy Dancer/Choreographer/ModelOctober 29, 2018November 7, 2018No No
UK Strength and Conditioning Coach/ConsultantNovember 5, 2018November 16, 2018No No
Japan Ballet Dancer October 15, 2018 12/04/2018 Yes Yes
Taiwan Creative Director / Jewelry DesignerNovember 15, 2018November 28, 2018No No
Japan Painter November 1, 2018November 16, 2018No No

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