US “Talent Visa”: Things to Know

Colloquially dubbed as the “talent visa”, the O category US visa is a visa category that welcomes persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of sciences, education, business, or athletics, as well as in the motion picture or television industry.

It is a nonimmigrant visa that grants its holders the right to work and/or participate in events in their respective fields in the United States.


While the colloquial name only implies the need for extraordinary talent to be eligible, the fact is that this ability has to be proven by national or international acclaim. So if you’re the next Picasso but only paint in secret: tough luck!

Therefore, whether you’re in the field of sciences, education, business, or athletics, you must be able to prove that you are in the top percentiles in your field to qualify for an O-1A visa. For example, scientists who apply for this visa must have articles in top respected publications, while athletes must have the medals or similar accolades to prove it.

In showbiz, you must be renowned and considered to be outstanding in your field to apply for the O-1B. This could be proven by, for example, your prestigious portfolio and publications about your achievements in reputable media.

You will also need to demonstrate the necessity and purpose of your travel by showing work contracts and/or plans, as well as approval from trade unions or similar organizations from your field in the US.

Application process

As this visa is practically used for you to gain entrance to work, the O1 visa application process is started by your employer by submitting an I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf to the USCIS.

Here are the documents you will need to apply:

  • A filled out DS-160 visa application form and its confirmation page;
  • Your passport, valid for at least six months after the trip;
  • A visa photo that fulfills US visa photo requirements;
  • Approval Notice from the USCIS;
  • Visa fee receipt.


The validity of O category visas varies, with consideration of your work contracts and plans, as well as other factors deemed relevant by the US authorities.

The O-1 visa may be valid for up to three years. However, it is also a frequent case that visas are only issued for the duration of certain events for which the applicant is entering the United States.

The O-1 visa may also be extended in one-year increments, and there is no limit for the number of increments. However, with each extension, the applicant must prove their work plans that justify the visa extension.

Bring your staff

If you’re entering the US with an O-1 visa, you may also bring your staff along to enter with an O-2 visa. The staff members must be able to prove that they possess critical skills and experience vital to your work. In the case of motion pictures or television crew members, they must show that their continued cooperation during work in the US is essential to the success of the production.

The application for this visa type is also kicked off by the employer’s I-129 petition. Your employer must also consult with appropriate trade organizations in the US on the essentiality of your travel and cooperation and gain their acceptance for a successful petition.

Bring your family

If you hold the O-1 or O-2 visa, your spouse and children under the age of 21 may also enter and accompany you. As the status of their visa depends on your visa and permits, they will be subject to the same period of admission and limitations as yours.

Under the O-3 visa, your family members may not legally work. However, they may study full-time or part-time in US institutions.