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O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability for Athletes

  1. What are the main types of visas available for athletes who want to work in the United States? The most commonly used temporary visas for athletes to compete in the United States are the O-1A and P-1A.
  2. What are the main differences between the O1, P1, and other visas for athletes? The O-1A visa requires that the athlete possesses extraordinary abilities in their field. There is a list of 8 criteria that determine if the athlete has extraordinary abilities, of which they need to meet at least 3. On the other hand, the P-1A visa is available for athletes with international recognition, either individually or as part of a team. Additionally, for both visas, the athlete needs a sponsor or representative agent in the U.S.
  3. What are the steps to obtain an O1 visa? What are the mandatory requirements? Could you also explain the concept of “extraordinary ability” required for this visa? To start the O-1A visa process, the athlete needs to secure a sponsor or representative agent in the U.S., who will be the petitioner for the visa. Once the lawyer completes the document organization, the process can be filed with USCIS. The O-1A visa petition must be accompanied by an advisory opinion from an expert or organization in the U.S., a contract between the petitioner and the athlete, an itinerary explaining the activities to be performed in the U.S., and evidence that the athlete possesses extraordinary ability. To be considered an athlete with extraordinary ability, the athlete must meet at least 3 of the 8 criteria established by immigration law. The criteria are: (1) receipt of national or international awards for excellence in their field; (2) membership in associations in the field that require extraordinary achievements of their members; (3) published material in professional or major publications about the beneficiary, related to the beneficiary’s work; (4) participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same field; (5) original scientific, academic, or business contributions of major significance in the field; (6) authorship of academic articles in the field, in professional journals or other significant media; (7) critical or essential function for renowned organizations; and (8) evidence that the beneficiary has commanded or will command a high salary or other significant remuneration for services rendered. After determining that at least 3 criteria have been met, the immigration officer will assess whether the documentation as a whole demonstrates that the beneficiary possesses extraordinary ability in their field.
  4. How long does it typically take for an athlete to obtain the O1 visa? How much does it cost? How long is the visa valid for, and how does renewal work? The time to organize all documentation varies from case to case, averaging 1-4 months to submit the petition. After submission, USCIS does not have a set timeframe to decide the case or request additional evidence. Currently, this review takes an average of 3-6 months. It is also possible to request faster processing with a premium processing request, which requires USCIS to respond within 15 days. The fees for the I-129 form for O-1 and P-1 visa petitions vary depending on the number of employees of the petitioner, ranging from $810 to $1,655. The premium processing fee is currently $2,805. The visa’s validity depends on the athlete’s country of nationality. The status validity will be determined upon petition approval, up to 3 years. After this period, the petitioner can request renewal in 1-year increments. The renewal process is similar to the initial process, requiring proof of the activities performed.
  5. What are the main challenges athletes face during the O1 visa application process? Athletes, like other professionals in the O-1 category, may struggle to prove all their achievements and impact. A strong case in this category depends on complete documentation for each claimed criterion.
  6. What advice would you give to athletes considering applying for the O1 visa? To qualify for the O-1A visa, the beneficiary needs to meet at least 3 of the 8 criteria listed above. If the beneficiary lacks sufficient evidence for each criterion, they can prepare to achieve the necessary elements before submitting the petition.
  7. What are the main benefits of obtaining the O1 visa compared to other types of visas for athletes? Being classified as an athlete with extraordinary abilities can be simpler in some cases compared to the P-1A visa, which requires international recognition. Additionally, the O-1A visa can be renewed annually without a total year limit, unlike the P-1A visa. It is best to consult with a lawyer to determine the classification.
  8. Marcelo mentioned that a significant portion of the office’s revenue comes from the O1 visa. Can you provide those figures for us? The O-1 visa alone accounts for approximately 10% of monthly sales, which is significant considering the wide variety of visas the office handles.
  9. In 2023, how many Brazilians obtained the O1 visa? According to data from the Department of State, U.S. consulates in Brazil issued 2,868 visas in the O category in the fiscal year 2023.
  10. Do we have any case studies or examples for this topic? We have assisted athletes in the O-1, P-1, and EB-1A categories.


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