O-1 Visa


Q. What U.S. immigration options exist for coaches and other workers who support athletes, such as trainers, mental conditioning consultants, movement specialists, nutritional advisors, etc?

  1. H-1B Visa for workers in specialty occupations. This visa is issued for up to three years and is renewable for a second three-year period. The visa will permit the athlete to work for an American company in a position that normally requires a university degree. Sometimes this visa will work for an athlete who wants to work as a coach or instructor, but not always.
  2. O-1 Visa. O1 visas are temporary work visas granted to individuals with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics (these are classified as O1-A visas). They are also granted to individuals with internationally recognized, extraordinary achievement in the television or motion picture industries (these are classified as O1-B visas). This visa is issued for up to three years. To qualify, the coach must show he or she has received sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievement as a coach. Usually it is not enough for a coach to show extraordinary ability as an athlete, the coach must show extraordinary ability as a coach.

For USCIS purposes, extraordinary ability is defined somewhat differently for different categories:

  • In the sciences, business, education, or athletics, it means that the person is one of small percentage at the top of the profession or field in which he or she excels.
  • In the field of the arts, extraordinary ability means distinction — a high level of achievement evidenced by skill and recognition substantially above the ordinary.
  • In the motion picture and television industries, the individual must demonstrate extraordinary achievement and be recognized as outstanding, notable, or leading in the field of motion pictures or television.

Unless you have received an internationally recognized prize, such as the Nobel Prize or an Academy Award, proving extraordinary ability is done by submitting evidence to support affirmative answers to at least 3 out of 8 questions presented by USCIS.


Alonso previously played as a professional athlete in Spain and Uruguay. After retiring from the game, he went into coaching and in recent years has become highly successful, winning a major continental championship and some league championships in Mexico. He has developed a unique, successful managerial style that involves working on all aspects of athletes’ game both mentally and physically. Alonso has an offer to continue his coaching career for a professional club in the United States.

What type of visa is most suitable to Alonso and what must he demonstrate in order to obtain same?

Alonso should be able to qualify for an O-1 visa which allows individuals of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, education or business to live and work in the United States. To qualify, a foreign national must provide adequate documentation to demonstrate that he/she has sustained national or international acclaim in his/her field.

As stated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a U.S. employer or agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent, must file the petition for an O1 visa. The employer should have an immigration attorney work with the employer to complete this process.

In addition, an applicant for an O1 visa must obtain a consultation letter (advisory opinion) from an appropriate peer group. This should be written by a person or group with expertise in your field, describing your achievements and ability.

Additionally, the individual must provide substantial evidence to prove that he/she meets 3 of the 6 evidence categories defined by statute.

The O-1 visa applicant must also show that he/she has an offer of employment in the United States to work in his/her field of expertise (or several offers of employment from multiple sources.

The individual cannot begin working while the application is being processed. Alonso must await an O-1 visa which will allows him to work.

Spouses and minor children of O-1 visa holders may be eligible for O-3 visas. An O-3 visa may be approved for the same period of time as the O-1. O-3 visa holders are not authorised to work in the U.S., but are allowed to engage in full or part-time study in the U.S. while in O-3 status. 


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