The law establishes three different standards for the O-1 category: (1) the highest standard applies to those in the sciences, education, business, and athletics; (2) a less rigorous standard applies to individuals in the arts; and (3) an intermediate standard applies to foreign nationals of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or TV industries. A company or agent must file on behalf of the foreign national.
With regard to the first group (in science, education, business, and athletics), the CIS rules provide that only a person who is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of his or her field of endeavor qualifies for this of extraordinary ability. To qualify for O-1 status, the person must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of receipt of a major, internationally-recognized award.
To qualify through extraordinary ability in the arts, CIS requires “distinction.” “Distinction” means a high level of achievement in the field of art as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that a person is described as prominent, leading, or well-known in the arts.
The rules define the term “art” to include any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to, fine arts, visual art, culinary arts and performing arts. In addition, those engaged in the field of art include not only the principal creators and performers but also other essential support person such as, but not limited to: directors, set designers, lighting designers, sound designers, choreographers, conductors, coaches, arrangers, musical supervisors, costume designers, makeup artists, stage technicians, and animal trainers.