As a brief introduction, the O-1 visa category is intended for persons in various fields, as discussed below, who have attained a level of expertise in their field that make one of a small percentage to have reached the top of their field. As discussed below, within the various industries there are slightly different standards applied. Note that an immigration attorney should be consulted to consider your specific case as the interpretation of each category plays a significant role in the preparation of O-1 visa petitions.
Do the Standards for Extraordinary Ability Differ between the Arts, Sciences, Business, Education, Athletics and Motion Picture/Television Production?
As provided below, the regulatory language and applicable standards do vary between these fields. 8 C.F.R. 214.2(O)(3)(ii) provides the following definitions:
Field of Arts
Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.
Motion Picture and Television
Extraordinary achievement with respect to motion picture and television productions, as commonly defined in the industry, means a very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or television industry 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 in the motion picture or television field.
Sciences, Education, Business, and Athletics
Extraordinary ability in the field of science, education, business, or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor.
Just How Restrictive is the O-1 Visa Category Intended to Be?
Unfortunately the category is very strictly interpreted. The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) provides the following blurb in many decisions it publishes:
"The extraordinary ability provisions of this visa classification are intended to be highly restrictive. See 137 Cong. Rec. S18247 (daily ed.,Nov. 16, 1991). In order to establish eligibility for O-1 classification, the petitioner must establish that the beneficiary is "at the very top" of her field of endeavor.
The regulation at 8 C.F.R. tj 214.2(0)(3)(ii) defines, in pertinent part:
Extraordinary ability in the field of science, education, business, or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor."