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Understanding the Differences Between O-1A and O-1B Visas

Updated: Jun 11


O1 Visa A or B

Introduction


If you possess extraordinary ability in a specific field, the United States could be the ideal place to advance your career. Special non-immigrant visas exist for those who demonstrate exceptional talent or achievement. The O-1 visa is one of the most sought-after options, but it's important to choose the correct category for your specific skills and career goals. 


What is the O-1 Visa?


The O-1 visa is a temporary work-authorized status that can be granted to individuals with extraordinary ability. There are two main categories within the O-1 visa:

  • O-1A: For individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, or athletics.

  • O-1B: For individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

Petitioners may use comparable evidence to meet the criteria for either visa type.


O-1A Visa: For Extraordinary Ability in Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics


The O-1A visa is for those who have reached the pinnacle of their profession in science, education, business, or athletics. To qualify, you must prove you have sustained national or international acclaim and a documented record of extraordinary ability. This can be shown by meeting at least 3 of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.

  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts.

  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the beneficiary and their work in the field.

  • Evidence of the beneficiary's original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.

  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field.

  • Evidence of the beneficiary's employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

  • Evidence that the beneficiary has commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services.

  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field.

Additionally, evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for distinguished organizations can support an O-1A petition.

Internationally recognized prizes can also be used as evidence for an O-1A petition.

The evidence must demonstrate that the beneficiary's contributions are of major significance in their field, which can include publications, testimonials, citations, patents, licenses, and expert letters to establish the significance of the beneficiary's contributions.



Cameraman Holding his camera

O-1B Visa: For Extraordinary Ability in the Arts or Achievement in Motion Picture or Television Industry


The O-1B is specifically for those with extraordinary ability in the arts (such as dance, music, visual arts, culinary arts) or those who’ve achieved extraordinary recognition in the film or TV industry. “Extraordinary ability” for the O-1B can be shown by meeting at least 3 of the following criteria:

  • Evidence of performing as a lead or starring participant in productions or events with a distinguished reputation.

  • Evidence of having achieved national or international recognition for achievements through critical reviews, other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.

  • Evidence of having performed in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

  • Evidence of major commercial successes.

  • Significant recognition from organizations, critics, or government agencies.

  • Evidence of commanding a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in the field. of performing as a lead or starring participant in productions or events with a distinguished reputation can support an O-1B petition.

  • Major commercial successes can also be used as evidence for an O-1B petition.

  • Significant recognition from organizations, critics, or government agencies can support an O-1B petition.

The types of evidence that can support an O-1B petition include published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the beneficiary, relating to the beneficiary's work in the field for which classification is sought.


What if you’re not sure whether your profession qualifies under O-1A or O-1B?


Some highly-skilled professionals might fall into areas between the arts and science or business, such as website designers, entertainment industry publicists, talent agents and managers, medical and mental health doctors who are also public speakers and authors, and the list goes on and on.

In this situation, the assessment of the evidence available in your case will be crucial to making the determination of whether O-1A or O-1B is right for you. Speak with one of our experienced attorneys to make this assessment. Testimonials from government agencies can be used as evidence for both O-1A and O-1B petitions.


Key Differences Between O-1A and O-1B Visas


  • Areas of Expertise: The O-1A covers science, education, business, and athletics. The O-1B focuses on the arts, film, and television.

  • Standard for Approval: O-1A’s (business, science, education, athletics) are held to a higher standard than O-1B (arts & film/TV).

  • Flexibility to accept employment: O-1A allows the applicant to work only for the companies that provide job offers at the time of filing. If an O-1A wants to add an employer to their visa, a new petition must be filed. O-1B allows for the addition of projects in your field without filing a new petition. Therefore, the O-1B allows much more flexibility in accepting employment with new companies than the O-1A.

  • Evidence: Awards, publications written by or about the applicant, leadership roles within companies and a high salary are strong evidence for both types. The O-1B often relies on evidence like critical reviews, box office success, or recognition within the entertainment industry, while the O-1A considers membership in restrictive organizations, judging the work of your peers, and making an original contribution to your field. Both visa types require evidence of national or international recognition for the beneficiary's work, as evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.


Tips for Applicants

  • Choose the Right Category: Determine whether your career achievements fit better under the science and business umbrella (O-1A) or the arts and entertainment sector (O-1B).

  • Gather Your Evidence: Collect all proof of your talents and recognition, from awards to press coverage and testimonials.

  • Seek Guidance: An immigration lawyer can advise you on the best visa type for your situation and ensure a strong application.


Conclusion


The O-1A and O-1B visas open incredible doors for skilled individuals wishing to work in the US.  Understanding the crucial differences between the two is essential for choosing the right path.  If you have extraordinary ability, don't hesitate to explore these exciting visa options!


Call to Action


Think you have what it takes for an O-1A or O-1B visa?  Speak to the immigration experts at Global Talent Immigration Law Group. Contact Liz Profumo or Jordana Schwartz-Matricardi for a free consultation. For more information, explore our resources www.GlobalTalentLaw.com.

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