What is an “extraordinary ability” visa?
An “extraordinary ability” visa is a visa for individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, OR who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, AND have been recognized nationally OR internationally for those achievements.
There are two types of “extraordinary ability” visas: the “O Visa” and the “EB-1 Visa”.
To learn about the O-Visa and EB-1 Visa, click here to get an overview of the requirements for each of these visas.
*Please note that an EB-1 visa is available for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, and individuals who are outstanding professors and researchers. This post is discussing the first group of individuals, EB-1A, under the EB-1 visa category. We will provide a separate post in the future regarding the EB-1 for professors and researchers.
What is the biggest difference between an “O-Visa” and “EB-1 Visa” category for those with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics?
Both the O-Visa and EB-1 Visa are employment-based visas that allow you to come to the U.S. to continue work in your field of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The most significant difference is that the O-Visa is a temporary work visa, and you must secure employment in your field of extraordinary ability in the U.S. before you can apply for the visa. You can obtain the visa initially for a maximum of up-to three years, with demonstrated employment for those three years. Then you can do one-year renewals as long as you demonstrate a need, employment, for that renewal period.
In contrast, you do not have to secure employment in the U.S. to apply for the EB-1, although you do have to show you are coming to the U.S. to continue work in your field of extraordinary ability. Additionally, the EB-1 is a Green Card based visa, which means you can obtain permanent residence in the U.S. It is important to understand that the standard for an EB-1 is much higher because you are looking to not just work in the U.S. but to become a permanent resident (which makes you eligible for citizenship later on), and one must usually demonstrate that they are in the top percent in their field to be eligible. One way to establish eligibility for the EB-1 is by demonstrating a previous grant of an O-Visa although this does not guarantee an EB-1 approval.
Do you have to apply and have an approved O-Visa to be eligible to apply for the EB-1 Visa?
Not at all. You might eligible for the EB-1 without having to obtain an O-Visa first. We can do an analysis of your background and qualifications to determine the strength of an EB-1 application.
What are other important differences between the O-Visa and EB-1?
The O-Visa has additional requirements besides the documents needed to establish your extraordinary ability, including a consultation requirement, contracts or deal memos of employment, itineraries, and a US agent or employer to petition for you. Additionally, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, may be eligible to come to the U.S. with you but they CANNOT work in the US. They can, however, engage in part-time or full-time study. There are also certain requirements for extending your stay, changing employers, substantial changes in employment such as working with a new employer that you must comply with to maintain lawful status under this visa.
In contrast, with the EB-1, there is no employment requirement, no consultation requirements, no itinerary of secured employment, and no U.S. agent required to petition. You can self-petition for yourself. Additionally, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, can come to the U.S. with you, AND work, and also have permanent residence.
Which visa should you apply for?
For more information regarding your eligibility for an O Visa or EB-1, please contact us to do an assessment.