O-1B Visa Requirements

The O-1 Visa is a very complex but very rewarding visa. It can sometimes take months to develop a strong petition. Therefore, before you begin exploring O-1B Visa Requirements, ask yourself the following questions:

How do I know that I qualify for the O-1?

How do I know I’m going to get potentially approved for the visa?

The next step is to meet with an experienced attorney who really really understands the arts, the nature of the industry that you’re working in, and of course, the law.

At Yao Law Group, we divide the visa requirements into 2 categories:1.  Technical requirements and then merit based requirements.

Examples of technical requirements are:

  • Immigration forms: the information on the forms is critical for proper processing at the Service Center.
  • Advisory Opinion: this is a technical letter from either a labor union or a management organization, that is a requirement for the petition. However,  there are certain professions where there’s no labor union. So for example, for models, there is no labor union for models, there’s not a technical body that governs models or fashion designers, so a Peer Letter would be an appropriate replacement.


Examples of Merits Based requirements are:

Letters of Recommendation/Testimonial Letters: Most people that this is the easiest category, but it’s actually the most complex because of how they’re utilized in the petition. The letters really go into depth on the work that you’ve done, contribution to the projects that you’ve participated in, what sort of role you’ve had. And as a result, they’re very detailed. And they require a thorough analysis of your achievements. Right. So maybe a real world letter of recommendation would be somewhere around like maybe half a page one page, resin letter recommendation for the O-1s, are usually two, sometimes three pages depending on how in depth–the signer wants to go into the analysis of your work. Again, the letters of recommendation don’t just come from anybody, they really need to come from experts in your field. So for example, an expert is someone who has a professional career and somebody who has a track record of success in the field that you’re working in, and the field that you want to work in during your O-1. So I tend to stay away from professors, because academic work and academic achievements are not synonymous with

Press: Press can include news articles, interviews,press articles, publications about you in the work that you’ve been participating in. A lot of the time, sometimes clients will secure press that really focus on their academic achievement. But the discussion of academic achievements in the press is not something that is necessary for the O-1. In fact, a degree for the O-1 visa is not a requirement.

Future Work: This can include work on behalf of multiple employers, projects, or persons if you are filing with an Agent-petitioner or just a single employer.  Now, this is a very complicated decision because it is usually based on how you see yourself navigating your future career in the next three years and the work opportunities that you have. If you file with an agent- petitioner, then you have the ability to file with a legal minimum of two contracts. And then you can add additional performances and engagements to your O-1 validity period, if they’re within the scope of what you’re doing and they don’t materially change the underlying petition that was submitted.

Portfolio: Your portfolio is basically an ensemble of curated documents created by me, which includes information to demonstrate your creative process. Portfolios look different for each person, but they should generally include contracts, press, pay stubs, emails, and more.


2 Additional Criteria:

High salary and commercial success are two additional criteria that can be argued. However, they are a bit more difficult to prove for traditional creativel professions, such as singer, actors, dancers, and more.  Commercial success can sometimes more easily be argued for models, art directors, creative directors, and commercial success. For example, being on  the cover of a magazine can be argued as commercial success.

When working on your O-1 visa it is important to work with an attorney that understands the nuances of your work and your field as applied to the law.

Elektra Yao is the managing attorney and founder of Yao Law Group. She loves working with artists and is a recognized leader for O-1 visas. Visit yaolawgroup.com for more information.

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