O-1 classification allows foreign nationals who demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim to come temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of their extraordinary ability. This visa type is also available to individuals who have a record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture and/or television productions. Extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics is defined as a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor; in arts (including culinary arts and essential technical or creative personnel) it is defined as distinction, or a degree of skill or recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.
O-2 classification applies to an individual who is coming temporarily to the U.S. solely to assist in the artistic or athletic performance by an O-1, and who has critical skills and experience with the O-1 visa applicant. O visas require a written advisory opinion from an appropriate institution describing the beneficiary’s ability and achievements in the field and duties to be performed, or simply not objecting to the petition.
The O classification is often a helpful alternative to other nonimmigrant visas such as H-1Bs because this status can be extended nearly indefinitely and there is no “cap” (or October 1 start date for for-profit petitioners) or “prevailing wage” requirement, and those subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement are eligible for O-1 status. O petitions may be filed by employers or agents.