O-1 visa status is perhaps the most versatile nonimmigrant category in that it encompasses a wide spectrum of potential beneficiaries, but is also demanding in that all successful petitioners are required to establish that they possess “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, the arts, entertainment, education, business, or athletics. Because of its versatility, this visa classification allows for ample room for creativity in creating a successful petition. O-1 visa applicants must be leaders or high achievers in their chosen field and be recognized as such by their peers. For example, one of the necessary requirements in an O-1 petition is an advisory opinion from the appropriate supervisory entity, such as a peer group, labor organization, or management organization, attesting to the petitioner’s extraordinary abilities. When no such peer group exists, for example, in the case of tattoo artists or executive managers for speedboat manufacturers (both types of cases which Steve Maggi has successfully presented), then peer letters are necessary to establish the beneficiary’ special standing in that specific industry.
Typically, proof of the prospective employment is achieved through a copy of the employment contract and a description of the work to be done. One advantage of the O visa is that there is no set maximum period for O-1 status, which is a limitation of the P-1 visa, as the length of the status is determined by the length of time needed for the alien to perform his duties or activities with the petitioner employer. An initial stay is limited to no more than three years, provided the petitioner can establish that the O-1 alien will need this much time for the proposed employment. This period may be extended for one-year increments thereafter, and the O-1 visa status can be used as a platform for a green card application and lead to permanent residency.