The O-1: Eight Ways to Identify Extraordinary Ability

The O-1: Eight Ways to Identify Extraordinary Ability

Posted by: Park Evaluations | in , ,

By Maddie Carlson

When a beneficiary’s innovations have been recognized either nationally or internationally, an O-1 visa may be the ideal application process for highlighting their importance to their field. An O-1, or Extraordinary Ability or Achievement letter, focuses on up to eight different criteria that demonstrate an individual’s excellence in their career. The O-1A details a beneficiary’s excellence in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. This visa can also be further specified as an O-1B, which focuses on individuals with extraordinary ability and achievement in the motion picture or television industry. Forming an O-1 application requires enough evidence to build a case that the beneficiary is indeed hard to come by in their industry. Moreover, this application requires a consultation from a person with expertise in the beneficiary’s field, ideally through a Specialty Expert Letter which is a service Park provides.

To succinctly demonstrate that the beneficiary showcases extraordinary ability in their industry, there are eight main criteria that USCIS looks for to determine the beneficiary’s capabilities. The criteria chosen for the specialty letter need to be coupled with evidence of the beneficiary’s widespread acclaim. It is therefore important to understand these criteria and the documentation that supports their claims. Detailed below are the eight criteria that can be used in the Extraordinary Ability or Achievement letter, and which help to form the core arguments of Park’s Extraordinary Ability Expert Letter.


Criteria 1: Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.


If the beneficiary has evidence of employment in positions that are necessary for the success and operations of a business, this section should be included in the application. Positions that are applicable to the definition of critical capacity can include management positions such as top executives or lead researchers for novel developments in the industry. However, the position is contingent on its relation to the beneficiary’s industry. The beneficiary’s responsibilities in the position help further define how essential their role is to the company’s operations. Responsibilities that will lead to the company having a global influence, major increases in profits, and/or uniquely solidifying branding are often not only achieved in essential positions but are successfully carried out by individuals with extraordinary ability and expertise in their correlating industry.

Important Documentation: Reference letters from colleagues and employers and resumes.

Criteria 2: Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.


Another way to determine if a beneficiary qualifies for an O-1 visa is if they have established landmark contributions in their field. In the sciences or education this section could be dedicated to new findings in research that have become highly cited or common practice in the industry’s theory and/or processes. In business this may manifest as new processes, methodologies, and/or tools including new forms of forecasting or management methods. For individuals in athletics, major contributions may include the achievement of new records in their field and/or in competitions. As for the arts, creating works that are highly acclaimed or revolutionary to the industry’s approaches are generally considered to be of major significance. In general, this criterion depends on the beneficiary’s industry and thus may require a deeper description on their effect on the field.

Important Documentation: Reference letters from peers that detail these contributions.

Criteria 3: Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought.


Furthermore, a beneficiary’s work being discussed in the media also indicates extraordinary ability and influence. Usually, such discussions in the media include interviewing the beneficiary about their work, dialogue on their successes, and/or informative articles discussing the success of a company while they were working there. It is important to note that the beneficiary should be mentioned in these articles alongside their work as the media should be giving them and their work accolades.

Important Documentation: The articles the beneficiary and their work are mentioned in which include the publication name, text, and year published.

Criteria 4: Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought.


If the beneficiary has scholarship published, then this criterion can apply to them as well. While these publications are not exclusively sourced from professional journals, it may help the beneficiary’s case if the professional journals are not predatory journals. Not only are those journals less credible among academics, but these articles may be cited less because of that – lowering their sphere of influence in the field. Additionally, while a beneficiary may be a secondary author in some publications, having more publications in which the beneficiary is the primary author would build a better case. Sharing publications wherein the beneficiary is the primary author makes a clearer case that states that the beneficiary authored and developed the information and findings in this scholarship. This criterion may be used more often for academic fields but can be included for other industries if there is evidence to support the claim.

Important Documentation: A screenshot of the article being accepted for publishing, a list of publications, a screenshot and/or file of the published article(s), and evidence of the article(s) being cited.

Criteria 5: A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.


When a beneficiary showcases a history of extraordinary ability and expertise in their industry, they usually are highly sought after by employers and will be earning a higher-than-average salary. To demonstrate that a beneficiary is indeed earning a high annual salary for of their ability, it is important to compare it to others in their position. To further strengthen the case, it is wise to include annual salaries from previous employers, if applicable.

Important Documentation: Evidence of the beneficiary’s salary with the petitioner or most recent employer and, if applicable, with previous employers.

Criteria 6: Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor.


Another determinant of extraordinary ability includes rewards for the beneficiary’s extraordinary accomplishments in their corresponding industry. While not every beneficiary who falls under this visa category may receive a prize for their expertise, if they have been given one from a reputable association then it will strengthen their application. Awards from these associations further validate that the beneficiary is also well-known due to their successes and innovations in their field. Awards can be given either for the beneficiary’s innovations, or their participation in competitions or summits. However, the award should still address their expertise in their industry.

Important Documentation: Evidence of awards including award letters or medals and a screenshot of the institution’s website.

Criteria 7: Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field.


The beneficiary being a part of an association which requires invitation and/or includes other reputable individuals from the industry is another way to classify them as extraordinary. Associations that exclusively invite members should be primarily listed in this section, as it strengthens the argument that the applicant is highly sought after for their expertise. Furthermore, associations that have a positive impact on future members of the industry can strengthen the argument that the beneficiary is indeed influencing the future of their field.

Important Documentation: A list of memberships which the beneficiary is in, evidence of membership including screenshots and/or invitation letters, and screenshots of the association’s website.

Criteria 8: Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought.


Beneficiaries being invited to judge the work of others indicates that their perspective is extremely valuable in the industry because of their extraordinary ability and expertise. For this criterion, the beneficiary may be participating in reviewing other’s work in editorial boards, dissertation committees, or at competitions. What the beneficiary participates in does depend on their industry, but they must be providing an evaluation of their peers.

Important Documentation: Invitations to join panels, screenshots of journals that were reviewed, or screenshots with the beneficiary’s name listed as a judge.

The Kazarian Phase and Putting It All Together


Because contemporary adjudication for O1 visas calls for a two-part assessment—namely, that enough of the above criteria points have been met, and that the candidate meets the “final merits determination” when all of the facts of the case are weighed on balance—Park’s expert letter does the same, making the argument that, on the whole, when taking all relevant factors into consideration, the discussed candidate is truly the best of the best in their field.



The ultimate goal for an O1 petition and an Extraordinary Ability Expert letter is to represent an individual who is not only an expert in the field but has contributed to the field in a significant way that has innovated the processes or theory utilized. Ensuring that these criteria points are detailed in a specialty letter by an expert of the beneficiary’s field is often an excellent strategy in giving a petition extra muscle, and Park Evaluations’ team of dedicated experts is prepared to help attorneys and businesses meet the toughest O1 challenges.

To request an Extraordinary Ability Letter, email [email protected].