O-1 extraordinary ability visa petitioners that obtain awards equivalent to world championships in athletics or Nobel Prizes may be eligible for an O-1 visa under the major award category alone. An individual who is fortunate to have won a major international award can avoid having to prove eligibility in at least three of the other evidence categories in order to obtain approval for the visa.
Foreign professional workers who are able to apply under the single major award category can avoid having to prove the other categories for the O-1 visa, which includes the following:
- Starring and leading roles in important projects and productions
- Significant international and national awards
- Playing an essential role in commercial or critically successful projects or organizations
- Being a member of a prestigious organization
- Essential or critical role with prominent organizations
- Significant recognition from published articles, journals, media outlets, and industry experts
- History of receiving compensation or salary higher than peers in the same history
What kind of awards can be considered a major international award?
Generally, the major international awards to apply for O-1 visa eligibility must be similar to winning a world championship or Olympic medal in the Olympics. The award must be internationally accepted as the very pinnacle of the industry. Examples of these awards include the following:
- Grammy Awards – This award is given by the Recording Academy to artists and industry professionals who had outstanding performance and achievement in the field of music.
- Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards – These are awards presented by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to recognize outstanding achievement of creative and business achievements in the industries of film and television.
- Olympic Medals – The premier athletic event in the world organized by the International Olympic Committee and includes the Summer Games, Winter Games, and Paralympic Games, Continental Pan Games, and the World Games.
- Directors Guild Award – Directors Guild of America Awards are presented in the motion picture and television industry by the prestigious Directors Guild of America.
- Emmy Awards – Emmy Awards are presented throughout the year to persons who are distinguished in the industry of television. The Emmy Awards are presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS), International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (IATAS), and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).
- Academy Awards – Academy Awards are more commonly known as Oscars and are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for excellence and international recognition in the film industry for both technical and artistic merit.
O-1 visa applicants do not need to have one of these awards or recognition of similar stature to obtain approval. Instead, the O-1 visa applicant will need to satisfy at least three lessor categories for the O-1 Visa. For O-1B visas, evidence on the following attributes are very helpful to obtain approval:
- Lead credits such as being a leading actor, singer, producer, editor, director in prestigious productions, events, and projects.
- Being featured in published materials, articles, and reviews as being the recipient of both national and international achievements.
- Experience working in a critical and essential capacity for organizations, companies, and establishments that are considered distinguished with supporting evidence from industry-related publications and confirmation from experts. This includes official credits in the music and film industries.
- Evidence that projects and events where the beneficiary had significant participation achieved commercial success and/or critical acclaim. This eligibility requirement can be supported with ratings from recognized critics, billboard charts, ticket sales, albums sales, and ratings for television, and box office results from motion picture sales.
- Evidence of recognition of significant achievements and confirmation from respected critics, government agencies, and industry experts in detailed reference letters.
- Evidence that the beneficiary has in the past or will in the very near future enjoy compensation, salary, or contracts that are substantially above what other peers in their industry earn. Remuneration is commonly provided with supporting evidence such as copies of executed contracts, pay stubs from employers, tax returns, public article reports, reports from regulatory bodies, and having this information compared to wage data from government agencies or third-party companies, confirmation from industry experts, confirmation from industry peers.
For success in the O-1 visa category, it is imperative that the petition is clear and concise on what services the beneficiary will be performing and what kinds of venues, projects, and performance the beneficiary will be participating in. In addition, proper organization and preparation of documents used for evidence are essential because USCIS has a new habit of ignoring evidence. The clarity in proving as many eligibility categories as possible is always paramount and clearly communicating when the same evidence applies to two different categories is important to avoid requests for evidence.