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The standard for extraordinary ability depends on the foreign national's field of endeavor. For science, education or athletics, the petitioner must demonstrate "a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of a small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor." For motion pictures and television, the petitioner must show "a very high level of accomplishment ... evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading."

O-1 — Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

An alien who has demonstrated extraordinary ability through sustained national or international acclaim in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics may be eligible for O-1 status. The O-1 category also includes persons working in motion pictures or television production who are able to show a demonstrated record of “extraordinary achievement.”

The standard for extraordinary ability depends on the foreign national’s field of endeavor. For science, education or athletics, the petitioner must demonstrate “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of a small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” For motion pictures and television, the petitioner must show “a very high level of accomplishment … evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading.”

For artists, not including those in the motion picture and television industries, the standard is significantly lower. The petitioner must merely demonstrate that the individual has attained a “high level of accomplishment…evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.” Thus, while O-1s for scientists, educators, athletes, and persons working in business, motion pictures, and television are often very difficult, the O-1 category is well suited for prominent performing artists who are coming to the United States to perform in specific engagements. The specific criteria for each of the extraordinary ability sub categories is outlined below.

Science, Education, Business or Athletics
In order to demonstrate extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics, the petitioner must submit evidence that the foreign national has received a nationally or internationally recognized award, or, documentation showing that he or she meets at least three of the following criteria:

  • Proof of membership in organizations that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  • Published materials in professional or major trade publications or major media about the individual relating to his or her work in the field for which classification is sought;
  • Evidence of the person’s participation on a panel or individually, as the judge of the works of others in the same or a related field;
  • Evidence of the individuals original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of authorship of original scholarly articles in the field in professional journals or other major media;
  • Evidence that the individual has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments with a distinguished reputation; and,
  • Evidence that the person has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services.

The Arts
To show extraordinary ability in the arts, the petitioner must submit evidence proving that the person is prominent in his or her field. This can be accomplished by either showing the person was nominated for, or received a significant national or international award (e.g., a Grammy award), or by submitting at least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • Evidence that the person has performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
  • Evidence that the person has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by our about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines and other publications;
  • Evidence that the person has performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations that have a distinguished reputation as evidence by articles in newspapers, publications or testimonials;
  • Evidence that the person has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications;
  • Evidence that the person has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which he or she is engaged;
  • Evidence that the person has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field;

If the above six criteria do not readily apply to the artist’s field, the petitioner has the option to submit other comparable evidence demonstrating that he or she is prominent.

Motion Picture and Television
The evidentiary criteria for persons working in motion pictures and television is identical to the criteria for “The Arts.” As noted above, however, the standard of review is much higher for the motion picture and television industries. Persons applying in these fields must show “a record of extraordinary achievement” rather than just “prominence.” Also, the option to submit “comparable evidence” does not apply for motion picture and television.

O-2 Visas for Essential Support Personnel
O-2 status may be sought for essential support personnel for O-1 aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts, motion pictures and television, and athletics. O-2 status is not available, however, to support O-1 aliens in the fields of business, science or education. The O-2 visa holders must be integral to the O-1s performance in the United States and possess “critical skills” which are not of a general nature and not possessed by U.S. workers. For artists and athletes, the O-2 support personnel must have previous experience working with the O-1. For the film and television industries, the O-2s must have a “longstanding working relationship with the O-1,” or, alternatively, the petitioner must demonstrate that significant pre- and post- production will take place both inside and outside of the United States, necessitating the continued participation of the O-2 alien(s).

O-2s are often used for lesser know artists or athletes performing with the O-1 alien, as well as personnel that support the entire production or team. Because one petition may be filed on behalf of multiple O-2 personnel, O-2 status can be used to bring an entire team, troupe, or production crew to the United States where one of the members meets the standard for “extraordinary ability.”

Consultations
Prior to approving a petition for O-1 or O-2 classification, the USCIS regulations require that a consultative letter be sought from an appropriate U.S. peer group, labor and/or management organization regarding the nature of the work to be done, and the foreign national’s qualifications. Often, more than one organization will need to be contacted. For the business, science and education fields, applicable peer groups, labor unions, and management organizations may not exist. In these cases, the consultation requirement may be waived by the USCIS.

 

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