What is the O-1A Visa

The O-1A visa falls within the extraordinary non-immigrant visa category and is created for foreign nationals with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. This visa is designed to attract high-achieving individuals, hoping that they will contribute to the United States population by sharing their talents. In this post, we will examine who is eligible for the O-1A visa.

O-1A Eligibility Requirements

Extraordinary Abilities

To be eligible for the O-1A visa, an applicant must meet certain eligibility criteria that demonstrate their extraordinary abilities and potential contribution to the United States. According to the USCIS, you must either “include evidence of a one-time achievement,” such as a major internationally-recognized award, OR meet at least 3 out of the following 10 requirements: 

  • Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts in the field.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about applicant's work.
  • Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as the judge of the work of others in the field.
  •  Evidence in the form of five or six letters and affidavits from prominent colleagues who can confirm applicant's original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance to the field. Regulations require a "peer group" must attest to the applicant's outstanding qualifications. We have found that this requirement may be fulfilled by letters of recommendation in which the referees outline their own standing in the field.
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence of commanding a high salary or other compensation for services. This category does not usually apply to academic positions.

Job Offer Required: An applicant must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in their field of expertise, and this employer or a representative of said employer must file a petition on behalf of the applicant. 

The O-1A Visa Timeline

The application process for the O-1A visa involves several steps that require careful preparation and attention to detail:

  • Collect documentary evidence. Applicants must gather substantial evidence that showcases their extraordinary abilities and contributions, as well as their contracts with the employer. According to the USCIS, such evidence includes the following:
  • A written consultation from a peer group or labor and/or management organization with expertise in the field. If the petition is based on the applicant’s extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, employer must submit separate consultations from the relevant labor and management organizations;
  • A copy of any written contract between the applicant and employer, or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the applicant will be employed;
  • An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events and activities; AND
  • Evidence of the applicant’s extraordinary ability or achievement in the field of expertise.

Your employer files Form I-129 on your behalf. A U.S. employer, U.S. agent, or foreign employer through a U.S. agent should file this form on your behalf, along with the required evidence according to the form’s instructions. Your employer can’t file the petition more than one year before they actually need your services, so you will not want to attempt to do this too early. To avoid delays, the employer should file your Form I-129 at least 45 days before the date of employment.

WAIT. Once everything has been properly filed, USCIS will process your application and you will receive notice if your application was accepted or not. From this news, you will be able to determine your next steps. 

Important: Please note that USCIS processing times can change frequently. To stay up-to-date on processing times, please refer to the USCIS website. 

If you are looking for more information about the O visas, you can read our blog about who is eligible for the O-2 visa.

O-1A Visa Filing Fees and Costs

USCIS and DOS filing fees for the O-1A visa are separated into applicants filing from inside the United States and those filing from outside the United States

Applicants filing from inside the United States

  • I-129 Filing Fee: $460
  • Optional Premium Processing fee: $2,500

Applicants filing from outside the United States

Important: Fees are subject to change by the U.S. government prior to case filing. Learn more here to see up-to-date USCIS fees.

FAQs For Who Is Eligible For The O-1A Visa

Conclusion For Who Is Eligible For The O-1A Visa

The O-1A visa opens the door to exceptional individuals seeking temporary stay in the United States who have demonstrated extraordinary abilities and contributions in their respective fields. While the application process may be demanding, the potential benefits and opportunities are worth the effort if you are qualified for the O-1A visa.