O-1A Visa: Does the “O” Stand for “Overlooked”?

The O-1A visa is available for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. Often rumors float around that an O-1A visa requires awards comparable to a Nobel Prize, Lasker Award, Olympic Medal, etc. While these are classic examples of achievements that may garner a granting of an O-1A visa, USCIS specifically sets out evidentiary criteria in recognition that an individual may have extraordinary ability without having earned such an accolade.

A common misconception is that an O-1A visa is simply the non-immigrant version of the EB-1A visa. While the criteria for each are similar, there are notable differences in the standards set for each visa type. Whether or not you may be able to qualify for an O-1A visa depends on your individual circumstances and the job for which the visa is being sought. Whether you are a Research Fellow, Resident Physician, Computer Scientist, Professor, or virtually any other position in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, and O-1A visa could be the right option for someone.

The following is a small sample of the pros/cons of the O-1A visa:


- Quick adjudication turnaround – allows for premium processing
- No annual cap on number of visas available
- No prevailing wage process or advertising requirements


-Generally requires a lot of documentation/careful discussion of individual achievements
-Does not offer work authorization for O-3 dependents
-Requires an employer-sponsor of the petition for the particular position sought

In short, if you are an employer, or an individual with an employer seeking to hire you and you need quick work authorization, then the O-1A visa is worth exploring. It has several advantages over visas such as the H-1B and L-1, and too often the O-1A visa is overlooked in terms of its usefulness/viability.