What Is The O-1 Visa?

The O-1 visa is a pathway for foreign individuals of “extraordinary ability” in their field to enter the United States of America on a nonimmigrant visa.

The United States Citizen and Immigration Services website lists those who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, as well as motion picture or television stars, as exemplary candidates for this visa.

The applicant must plan to use the visa for a temporary stay in the USA in order to continue work in their field.

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Application Process

The O-1 visa is divided into two subcategories defined as O-1A and O-1B.

As the O1-A visa is set up for applicants with academic and business expertise, a YouTuber will have most success applying for an O-1B visa as this pertains to applicants with outstanding ability in the film and television industry.

Applying for an EB-1 instead on an O-1 visa? Check out this article on the EB-1 visa requirements for more info and hot tips.

The following are the steps required to apply for a O-1B visa:

I-129 Form

The applicant will begin by filing an I-129 form, used for an non-immigrant work visa application.

This process must be started at least 45 days before the applicant desires their visa, but it is recommended to begin up to a year in advance.


The applicant must provide a detailed list and explanation of the events and activities they will participate in during the course of their stay.

They should also establish that these events and activities pertaining to their field of outstanding ability.


To verify an applicant’s extraordinary ability, the US Government relies upon a consultation from an appropriate labor union or an authoritative management organization in each field.

However, in the case of a YouTube creator, they would be allowed to rely on evidence of record to support their credibility as no such peer group exists. 

Demonstrating Extraordinary Ability For YouTubers

The O-1 visa requires applicants to prove their extraordinary achievement by meeting at least three of six possible criteria.

This application process was created in 1990, long before YouTube even existed, so these criteria do not provide an obvious pathway for a YouTuber to prove their successes.

That does not mean a YouTube creator could not qualify for an O-1 visa, simply that the application process may require a few alternate methods to explain success within the field of YouTube creation and production. 

What These Criteria Mean For YouTubers

As with any creatives applying for O-1, there are plenty of ways YouTubers can demonstrate their extraordinary ability on their way to receiving their O-1 visa.

There are 6 different evidence categories, of which at least 3 must be included in an application.

The following are the 6 evidence types and some information about what they entail for YouTubers.

Appearance Or Performance Reputable Events For YouTubers

Inclusion as a featured creator at an event such as VidCon, a convention in its 10th year running for online video content creators, could be used as evidence in this category.

Additional examples could be a guest appearance on a widely-recognized talk show, hosting a prominent awards show, or content posted on Netflix, Hulu or other popular streaming platforms. 

Articles, Interviews, And Other Media Appearances

National or International recognition for achievement could be shown as an article featured in a prominent source for online news.

Websites such as Buzzfeed, Thrillist, Elite Daily have published many lists of who they have identified as the most influential or successful YouTubers.

Other media sources like Forbes and Business Insider have profiled News sources like these should be cited for the relevance and credibility in the online community.

Affiliation With A Distinguished YouTuber Or Online Streamer Association

Affiliation with an association with a distinguished reputation could be verified with involvement with Google Preferred, a YouTube program that helps advertisers choose to put their ads on high-performing videos on the site.

Content chosen for Google Preferred is among the top 5% most popular videos, thus distinguishing a YouTuber who is involved in this program. 

History Of Commercial Success And Popularity

A record of commercial successes could be highlighted in subscriber counts, view counts, and sponsorship revenue.

Again, these equivalent measures of success will require an explanation and verification as to their pertinence in the online community.

Significant Recognition Of Achievement By A YouTube Affiliated Organization

Significant recognition of achievement could be demonstrated through the YouTube Creator Awards, which are designations given by YouTube based on a creator’s number of subscribers.

For example, creators with 10 million or more subscribers receive a diamond level award.

Recognition at annual awards shows for Internet and Social Media personalities, such as the Shorty or Streamy Awards, is another way a YouTuber could prove their extraordinary ability.

Notably Higher Salary Than Others YouTubers

o-1 visa application for youtubers

Demonstrating a YouTuber earns a salary significantly higher than most in their field can be easily demonstrated through total income based on sponsorship revenue, premium subscribers, event appearances, merchandise sales and more.  

An Overall Good Visa Option For YouTubers

Successful YouTubers can acquire an O-1 visa to temporarily work in the United States.

When demonstrating their extraordinary ability, it’s important for a YouTuber to provide further explanation as to why alternative measures of success verify that they have attained extraordinary achievement within the field. 

Some of these criteria may overlap, so an applicant may want to compile measures of their successes, then determine the best way to categorize and apply them to the evidentiary criteria. 

The O-1 visa can be valid for up to three years, with the possibility to renew annually. It also allows the applicant to bring spouse and children under 21 with them during their stay. 

The O-1 visa is a dual intent visa, which allows the beneficiary to pursue permanent residency while living in the US with an O-1 visa.

There is no annual cap on this visa, making it a great visa option for successful foreign individuals with strong talent credentials.