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O Visas / Entertainers and Extraordinary Ability
O-1 Visas are for persons with " extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim."
An O-1A visa is available for persons who have demonstrated: "extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education business or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim".
An O-1 B visa is for motion picture or TV production who have demonstrated -- "record of extraordinary achievement" -- "through extensive documentation".
O-2 visa are available for persons accompanying and assisting an O-1 athlete or artist for specific events or performances. It is necessary to show that they are an essential part of the event and have critical skills not generally available and which cannot be performed by other individuals. An O-2 must generally show a longstanding work relationship has taken or will take place in and outside the US.
O-1 need not show proof of foreign residence while an O-2 must show a foreign residence, which they have no intent of abandoning
There are different standards for each category of endeavor.
These require "a level of expertise indicating the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor". This is proved by receipt of a major internationally recognized prize ( e.g. A Nobel Prize) or a minimum of 3 of the following:
This means "Distinction" -- "a high level of achievement in the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered" --.
An artist needs to show he or she is "prominent" and not necessarily "top" of his or her field. Distinction in the arts by nomination of a significant international award (e.g. Academy Award or Grammy) or by proof a minimum of any of the following:
This requires proof of extraordinary achievement, which means "a very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or TV industry, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered". The criteria are the same for the arts, but the Government will require a higher standard when evaluating evidence in order to show extraordinary achievement.
These must have a written advisory opinion from a Union and a management group describing achievements in the particular field.
All other O-1s must obtain consultation from the appropriate Union if there is one from the field. Optional non-union expert opinions may be used. O-2 must also have Union and management opinion as to the expertise and necessity for the position.
The initial term of admission for O visa is three years. This may be extended for one-year annual increments. The major advantage of O-1 visa is that it can be extended without maximum time limit (unlike L and H categories), without need for new consultation, provided the basis for extension can be justified.(Extracted from USCIS website)