Extraordinary Abilities

What is Extraordinary Ability for The Artist?


Relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas  especially in the production of an artistic work or high  level of achievement.

Extraordinary is beyond what is usually, ordinary, regularor established or exceptional in character, among extent, degree; noteworthy remarkable.

Ability is the power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, and financially; and the competence in an activity or occupation because of one’s skills         training or other qualifications.


Individuals quickly become confused about the term Extraordinary Ability as an Artist, and have a hard time understanding what it means.



For O-1B purposes, the meaning of arts and  artists, is extensive:


Any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to, fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts. Creative internationals who engaged in the field of arts consist of not only the primary  performers, but other important individuals such as, but not limited to, directors, set designers, lighting designers, sound designers, editors, choreographers, chronologists, conductors, orchestrators, coaches, arrangers, musical supervisors, costume designers, makeup artists, fight masters, stage technicians, and animal trainers, can all file for an O-1 visa.


“Arts” is thus a term of talent that contains a range of people,  in that they use creative inference and apply imagination to the improvement or of a creative act. With this explanation, creative administrators, music teachers, vocal coaches, and many others who fall in this creative category may qualify for an O-1B work visa status. Even a vastly skilled craftsman, such as a stage engineer can qualify as well. 


Now that you have an idea of what extraordinary ability means, we now need to understand that the government, in how they decide if a person qualifies for an O-1 Visa status. USCIS has actually developed TWO definitions of extraordinary ability. However, we will discuss the evidence for the O-1B visa for artist. This is the type of visa Stern Deeds deals with. However, we do consider  O-1 A applicants from time to time.


If you are an artist, such as a video editor, pianist, makeup artist, musician, or even a sushi chef, the O-1 visa of extraordinary ability in the arts  is defined as follows:  Distinction. The artist must be shown to be noticeable in his or her field of endeavor. As a result, the standard for an O-1 artist is significantly lower than the standard for a person of extraordinary ability in science, education, business, and athletics.


This is good news for the artist because the artist does NOT have to prove that the artist is one of that 1-2% who has reached the top of the field.  For a start, to prepare a O1 visa  petition, the artist needs to show EITHER that the artist has been nominated or awarded a significant national or international award in his field OR submit proof of at least THREE of the following categories:


  1. The artist performed services as a lead or participant in productions which have a distinguished reputation. This can be established via critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements and the like;


  1. The artist has received national or international recognition for achievements. This can be demonstrated via critical reviews or publications in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines and the like;


  1. The artist has performed in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations that have a distinguished reputation. The reputation may be demonstrated via articles in newspapers, magazines, testimonials or trade journals.


  1. The artist has a record of major critically acclaimed successes from critics, government agencies, organizations, or other experts.


  1. The artist has received significant recognition from organizations, government agencies, critics or other experts.


  1. The artist is paid a high salary or substantial remuneration for services in relations to others in the field.


  1. If the above criteria do not readily apply to the artist, comparable evidence may be submitted as well.


The artist only needs to fulfill THREE of the above categories.  when Stern Deeds submits an O-1 artist based petition for approval, we include, among other things, photographs of the artist performing, copies of the artist’s awards, diplomas and certifications, publications in which the artist is featured, letters from experts as to the artist’s abilities, employment deal memos (statement from the employer indicating the job position and its duties) and agreements from the artist’s sponsor, proof of international rankings or similar evidence, an itinerary of what the artist anticipates being doing in his field over the O-1 visa  three-year period, and a letter from a union or management organization in their field.


At first, this seems like an overwhelming task but it can be shortened by working with an attorney who is experienced in this field.  Working with a Stern Deeds as a petitioner and our attorney can make the process easier and save you thousands.



As seen above, the O-1 visa classification is available only to foreign nationals with Extraordinary Ability in the arts, media, film, and  Extraordinary Achievement in the motion picture or television industry. Qualified foreign nationals may be admitted into the U.S. on an O-1 visa classification for a period of up to 3 years initially, and their stay may be extended in increments of up to one year, with no limit on the number of extensions. O-1 foreign nationals can engage in part-time study while in the U.S. The spouse and unmarried minor children can stay in the U.S. in O-3 status with the O-1 foreign national as long as he or she maintains his or her O-1 status. However, those on O-3 visa classification cannot engage in any employment. There are no travel restrictions for those on the O visa and O-1 foreign nationals and their families can freely travel in and out of the U.S. as long as their visa stamp and status are valid.


For more information please visit the USCIS website.


Download Samples Below

  1. O-1 Applicant Checklist



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