For many Americans, when we think of immigrants coming to our country with dreams of economic security for their families. We envision faded photographs of our ancestors arriving at Ellis Island in New York gazing with anticipation at the freedom and opportunities represented by the Statue of Liberty. In more modern times, many of the greatest individuals in their fields have sought to come here not necessarily to establish their reputations but to further their careers and live in an environment where they can flourish personally and professionally. The cultural dynamism of America has attracted great musicians such as John Lennon and Carlos Santana, athletes such as Martina Navratilova and Yao Ming and movie directors such as Ang Lee, among many other foreign-born professionals in the athletic, entertainment and other artistic fields.
Our nation has established policies to attract these extraordinary people. Immigration law in this country provides for the issuance of O-1 visas for immigrants with extraordinary ability and achievement. Those who serve as assistants to these extraordinary individuals can come here on O-2 visas and spouses and children can come via O-3 visas.
The O nonimmigrant classification is commonly referred to as:
- O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
- O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry
- O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance. For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.
- O-3: individuals who are the spouse or children of the O-1’s and O-2’s