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With the immigration impasse in American politics, it is harder than ever to move to the U.S. permanently, or even temporarily for work. There is one type of legal entry into the U.S. however, that is comparatively easy, if you can meet the criteria: temporary entrance by individuals with “extraordinary ability” as defined by U.S. immigration laws.

Extraordinary ability visas, which are officially called O-1A visas, O-1B visas, O-2 visas and O-3 visas, are designed to facilitate visits by scientists, athletes, and celebrities to the United States. Extraordinary ability visas are most often used by:

  • Actors, singers, and other performers associated with the entertainment industry
  • Professional athletes and elite competitors participating in sports within the U.S.
  • Individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business and other fields
  • Personal assistants and others who accompany the high-profile individual in order to provide assistance with a specific event or project
  • The spouses and children of individuals entering the U.S. via an extraordinary ability visa

Challenges When Applying for an Extraordinary Ability Visa

Celebrities of national and international stature usually have little difficulty entering and exiting the U.S. using an extraordinary ability visa, especially for specific roles and events. Likewise, high-profile entrepreneurs, scientists and sports stars also usually enter, exit and reenter the U.S. with little trouble for business opportunities , scientific initiatives and sporting events. Highly accomplished, albeit lesser-known, performers, business people and athletes, however, often face a greater challenge in getting their O visas approved when, 1) they are unaware of visa application challenges, and 2) when they fail to obtain qualified legal assistance from an immigration attorney.

Getting Your Extraordinary Ability Visa Approved

An immigration attorney can be vital in ensuring that an extraordinary ability visa application is approved. Beyond legal counsel, an immigration attorney can advise on and assist with procurement of necessary documentation which may include.

  • Relevant letters of recommendation from a peer group or applicable organization
  • The noting of financial contributions to projects related to your field
  • The listing of memberships in relevant professional organizations
  • Documentation of published works in professional and scientific journals
  • The listing of high-profile awards
  • Documentation of involvement in an artistic, scientific, athletic or business event or endeavor
  • Evidence that you are needed as an expert on a panel related to your field
  • Documentation that you have earned or will earn a high income in your field
  • Documentation that your presence and/or skills are essential to the artist, performer, business person, scientist of other person or extraordinary ability entering the U.S.

Often, individuals with a high chance of success in obtaining an extraordinary ability visa are rejected due to a simple error such as failing to provide an employment contract between the applicant and a U.S. employer, or attempting to apply for the visa themselves when, instead, the U.S. employer should handle the application.

An immigration lawyer can manage your application process, request that your application be expedited, if appropriate, and can handle your appeal in the event of a denial.