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What Are Extraordinary Ability Visas?

The Hollywood film and television industries are important engines of economic productivity for the United States, and thanks to the advent of digital video streaming services, this sector is busier than ever. Original content has proven to be very popular for companies such as Netflix, which has produced quite a few miniseries starring foreign actors. For a production such as Narcos: Mexico, getting stars such as Diego Luna to do American publicity tours requires the issuance of O-1 or EB-1A visas, which are granted to foreigners with extraordinary abilities.

Tens of thousands of extraordinary ability visas are issued each year by the Department of State as well as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. San Diego residents who work in the region’s booming biotech sector should know the O-1 visa is issued more often because it falls under the non-immigrant category of a temporary work permit. However, its validity can last up to three years, and it can be extended quite a few times. The EB-1A visa isn’t as flexible, but it can grant recipients certain benefits other immigration programs don’t normally offer.

Although both EB-1A and O-1 visas are granted on the basis of extraordinary ability, the former can pave the way for getting a green card and even citizenship, while the latter is strictly for non-immigrant status. The O-1A visa is for individuals who excel in the fields of athletics, business, education, and science. The O-1B visa is for artists, including those in the recording, cinematic, and performance disciplines.

Determination of extraordinary ability is based on a list of 10 achievements, of which the applicant must demonstrate three:

  • National and international awards
  • Memberships in relevant associations
  • Participation as a judge in competitions
  • Published works
  • Exhibits or performances
  • Research that has contributed to advancement in a chosen field
  • High earnings from a chosen activity
  • Leadership roles
  • Widespread recognition for nonprofit work
  • Press coverage

For professional athletes who are signed to teams or competitive leagues, O-1A visas are relatively easy to get. The same can be said about film, television, and theater actors whose work can be easily verified prior to issuance of O-1B visas. It should be noted that First Lady Melania Trump was once an O-1 visa recipient in the field of fashion modeling before she married President Donald Trump and adjusted her status so she could petition for a K-1 visa.

For a professional soccer player signed to a club traveling to the U.S. for a CONCACAF tournament, the process of obtaining an O-1 visa should be very easy. However, jazz musicians who intend to promote their careers in Chicago and New York can expect higher scrutiny of their visa applications. For this reason, they would be better off letting immigration law firms handle the process. In all cases, admissibility must be established before visas are issued. 

Get in touch with KS Visa Law if you’d like more information on any issues dealing with immigration, including all types of visas. We specialize in every aspect of immigration law, from naturalization to family-based immigration. Call 858-874-0711 today to schedule an appointment with one of our San Diego immigration law experts.

May 2024