Who are the 'Extraordinaries?'

September 6, 2018

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“‘Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement?’” Sounds a bit like you may have wondered into an X-Men convention. Fear not. What you have discovered is the O-1 nonimmigrant visa for “individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.” If you are a nonimmigrant who has any interest in working in the United States and are dreaming of becoming the next Rihanna or Justin Bieber, you may just want to read on to learn more about the O-1 nonimmigrant visa.


The O-1 work permit for nonimmigrants has created a pipeline for diverse artists and creative persons to work in the United States. Known for being the bi-coastal mecca for creative types, it’s not surprising that a majority, about 63%, of these persons end up working in New York and California. Alexia Fernández Campbell, The Visa for People Officially Deemed ‘Extraordinary,’ The Atlantic, July 27, 2016 (citing, Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigrant Statistics).


Notwithstanding his non-Bieliebers, Justin Bieber’s international success in the entertainment business helped to propel him to the head of the lines for his O-1 visa.  Navarrette Jr., Ruben, Revoke Bieber’s Visa, The New York Times, January 13, 2015, The Opinion Pages.  You see, in order to get an O-1 Visa, you must possess--in addition to a good immigration attorney--the extraordinary achievement the likes seen in Justin Bieber. Let’s sort through the criteria, which are themselves extraordinarily complicated.


For starters, the O nonimmigrant visa isn’t limited just to pop stars. Indeed, the O nonimmigrant visa covers four classifications, each requiring demonstration of “extraordinary ability.”


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

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