Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

O1 Visas – Extraordinary Ability in Business and Science

Extraordinary Ability in Business and Science

In this guide, I’ve tried to outline the requirements needed to be satisfied in order to qualify as a person of Extraordinary Ability. If you discover after having read this guide that you may fit this definition then get ready for the Red Carpet treatment courtesy of US immigration.

There are a group of people that US immigration feel are so talented in their field that they can be considered ‘Extraordinary’ and as such can qualify for one of two privileges not offered to anyone else.  The first is the O-1 visa which provides for temporary stays in the US, and the EB1 visa which is a direct-to-green card route that provides permanent residency within months of application.

When considering this qualification you must put all inhibitions of modesty aside and consider yourself in the most favorable light possible in relation to your peers.  With this classification, modest will literally get you no where.  In contrast, boasting about every last professional achievement could be enough to tip the scales in your favor for this visa. Welcome to America.

Extraordinary vs. Exceptional / Talented:
It’s very easy to think that the words ‘extraordinary’ and ‘exceptional’ are easily interchangeable. However, for US immigration purposes, each of these words has distinct meanings.

Exceptional Ability:
In essence this refers to people who have advanced skills, persons who have advanced degrees such as a Masters degree, law degree, and/or a doctorate. These people are deemed to have acquired exceptional abilities.  Persons of exceptional ability qualify for the lesser EB-2 visa which is discussed in another guide.

Extraordinary Ability in Business / Sciences:
The legal term ‘extraordinary ability’ seeks to identify those persons who have reached the very top of their professions as compared to their peers.

Extraordinary ability in business: This could be any businessman who has headed a successful company, perhaps been recognized by the peers in his field as being a successful leader. Maybe the businessman has been very successful in turning failing companies around or leading companies to extraordinary growth. There are many ways a person in business can demonstrate their abilities as being exceptional. Perhaps a line manager has lead a major marketing campaign(s) that itself has been recognized as being an extraordinary achievement(s).

There are also many highly successful innovative people who could demonstrate a great degree of success not normally encountered by their peers as being outstanding / extraordinary.

A business person may be published, may be written about by other in-trade magazines or general more nationally known publications. A business persona may be frequently invited to appear on panels, judge, or gives key note speeches at various national and international venues to other peers in the field.

Extraordinary ability in the sciences:
Extraordinary ability in the sciences often refers to a person who has been published, won awards, practices at the cutting edge, may have invented something, expanded the knowledge and so forth in their field and has been recognized by their peers for that achievement.

There are indeed various ways to establish ones extraordinary ability.

Should You Apply for the O-1, EB1 or Both:
If you are coming to work for a company for a limited period and that purpose is the full extent of your reason to coming to the US then the temporary O-1 visa would sufficient. You would certainly need a sponsor, the company employing you for the post to actually sponsor you.  The company would claim on your behalf your status as being someone of extraordinary ability.

If you are looking to seek work in your field of extraordinary ability then you will need to sponsor yourself.

In both cases your attorney will need to catalogue your cumulative extraordinary achievements in order to make a convincing case that you are indeed worthy of such an honor.  In this endeavor, unless you have actually won a major award no stone must be left unturned, no reference must be left unsolicited, no achievement must be left unmentioned in order to build your case.  After all, what is the point of almost getting your visa application approved? Being deemed by US Immigration as having O-1 / EB1 status is very subjective. Every effort must be made to make an overwhelming case leaving no room whatsoever for doubt in the mind of the official deciding your case.

The Ideal O-1  / Green Card Candidate
According to the INA Section quoted at the start of this review, the ideal O-1 candidate is a person who has received sustained national or international acclaim for their extraordinary ability in the sciences, education and business in any country.

O-1/ Green Card For Science, Business, Education
Non-immigrant in this field must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and whose achievement has been recognized in the field through extensive documentation (Published in national or international magazine).  A pioneer in their field, a leader. Membership to an illustrious professional group of professionals. You don’t have to be the undisputed best, but you need to be counted among the best.  Congress further stated that extraordinary priority worker classification (EB1 Green Card Status) is ‘reserved for that small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor”. This report further argued that the definition of O-1 non-immigrants is identical to that for EB1 Green card – priority workers. As discussed above based on reports of Congress many attorneys will file for both O-1 and EB1 status. This having been said, success at the O-1 level does not automatically guarantee success at the EB1 level.

For Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in Science, Business & Education

You will be required to submit at list three items from the list below.

  1. Copy of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  2. Membership to any association where only persons of outstanding achievement can obtain membership as judged by national or international experts in their disciplines or fields
  3. Evidence of being published in professional or major publication or major media relating to your work in the field.
  4. Evidence of your participation as a judge of the work of others relating to work in your field.
  5. Evidence of alien’s original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.
  6. Published in scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media.
  7. Business – evidence that you has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  8. Proof that you command such a high salary or other remuneration package that only persons in the top of their field would normally have.

Other Essential Facts You Need To Know About O-1 Visas:

You Need A Sponsor:
All O-1 applications start with a sponsor petitioning you for your visa. This means that some company or agent based in the US will need to file an application on your behalf to qualify as a suitable candidate for O-1 status.

Where the employer is the petitioner then all that is required is the application being made on your behalf stating the complete package on offer, such as remuneration, length of service etc. This information together with all the documentation attesting to your O-1 qualifications will be submitted for consideration.

For those applicants who are traditionally self-employed but contracted for specific periods, such as in a publishing contract, touring contract, applicant’s agent in US agent can act as the petitioner showing copies of the contracts and dates etc of the work to be done.

How Long Can The O-1 Last For?
The O-1 generally lasts for the duration of the US engagement. However, typically, it is initially issued for three years and can be extended indefinitely at annual intervals forever, as long as the visa holder continues to remain occupied in the field creating the O-1 status.

Can the O-1 Be Upgraded To Green Card Status?
In most cases the O-1 visa holder can apply for EB1- priority worker status, which is a green card based on extraordinary ability at any time.


By following the various check lists above you will be able to assist your attorney immensely in this application.

I hope you have found this overview informative and helpful. However, if you have any further questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me personally.

Chris M. Ingram, LL.M., ESQ
Attorney At Law

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