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O-1 Visa Checklist: Getting Ready To Begin the Process

November 13, 2019



O-1 Visas in the Arts are for visual and performing artists, designers and writers and often for the professionals in those fields as well. Curators, producers, critics, and others are often covered by O-1s in the arts too.


If you are thinking this might be a good option for you, and want to consult a lawyer about the process, you will benefit most by first considering the following points and the evidence that will help prove your achievements and future engagements.


Future Events and Engagements: Every O-1 in the Arts must include evidence confirming that you are coming to the US to continue work in your field. This can be for a long-term job or engagement or for a range of future projects, productions and events covering three years. 

  • What work you will be doing in the US?

  • There are many ways to approach the issue, but it is a good idea to get started in thinking about the issue and speaking with your colleagues and collaborators.

  • If you have an agent or creative management, they can help here.


Your Record of Past Achievement: To establish your record of work in the past, every O-1 in the Arts must either present a major award, like an Oscar, or meet at least 3 of the following:


1.Major Role in an Event or Production: Have you played a major role in artistically significant events or productions in the past? this includes publications.

  • This is a two-pronged test:

    • Was the production or event distinguished? We always need to show that a production or event was, in some way, artistically or commercially significant. However, there are limitless ways to show that an event or production was important. We often refer to press, other distinguished artists or subject matter and funding to help meet this requirement.

    • AND

    • Was your role or contribution  important? For actors this means that you were in a leading role. For everyone else, the definition of “leading role” is less clear. There may be many ways to show that your work was critical even if your “Title” or “credit” was not at the very top. You will want to think about how your important contribution will be documented. Letters of recommendation are often helpful on this front, but additional documents will also help.


2. Press: Is there press about you or about your work? It is a great idea to print out and scan everything you can find about you and your projects and achievements on the web. Paper clippings are also helpful. Scans should be high quality for use in a submission to the Immigration Service. Organize your press so it makes sense to a reader.


3. Major Role For An Organization: Have you provided critical services to distinguished organizations in the past?

  • This is also a two-pronged test:

    • Is the organization distinguished? Distinguished organizations is a broad concept and there are limitless ways to show that an organization is distinguished.

    • AND

    • Was your contribution important? You will want to think about how your important contribution will be documented. Letters of recommendation are often helpful on this front, but additional documents will also help.


4. Expert Recognition: Evidence that your work has been recognized by experts in your field or other leadership figures. This is where awards and letters of recommendation are key.

  • It is good to develop a list of who among your contacts will sign a strong and detailed recommendation letter for you.


5 and 6. Additional Criteria: There are other criteria, related to high compensation and

high sales figures. These are not critical to a strong O-1 Petition--many people do not meet these and are still great O-1 candidates.


Remember: It is not necessary to meet all of the criteria—a  successful O-1 needs to satisfy 3 or more of the points above. However, assessing whether you do meet the legal standard for an O-1 Visa is a complex process, involving a detailed discussion of your past accomplishments and plans for the future. An attorney who has extensive experience in O-1 Visa Petitions is crucial to choosing whether to proceed, and to a smooth process.


If you are considering an O-1 Visa, we invite you to contact us..



Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash



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