O-2 Petitions: Personnel Accompanying O-1B Artists
USCIS will permit an O-2 accompanying alien to enter the U.S. temporarily and solely to assist an O-1B alien in performing the work described in the O-1B petition. The O-2 alien must be an integral part of that work, and have critical skills and experience with the O-1B alien not of a general nature and that cannot be performed by other individuals. O-2 aliens must be separately petitioned for and cannot be included in an O-1B petition. The O-2 petition, however, can include multiple beneficiaries. It cannot be filed before the O-1B petition; rather, it should be filed with the O-1B petition unless unusual circumstances warrant filing it afterwards. In any case, absent an accompanying or preceding O-1B petition, O-2 classification is unavailable. In such a case, consider whether O-1B classification is a possibility.
Whenever more than one alien is coming to the U.S. for the same set of activities, and unless P-1B or P-3 classification is more appropriate, consider filing one O-1B petition and including all other beneficiaries, irrespective of stature or nature of activity, on a single O-2 petition. Why? An O-2 petition involves far less paperwork. In the case of a singer and accompanist, for instance, the accompanist probably can qualify for O-1B status. However, unless the accompanist will perform elsewhere in the U.S. without the singer, there is no need from the petitioner's perspective to bother filing an O-1B petition for the accompanist, with the attendant burden of proving the accompanist's extraordinary ability. To be sure, the accompanist may desire an O-1B visa for other reasons, ranging from ego to the need for an O-1B visa to perform separately at some point during the classification period.
The O-2 alien must render services essential to the O-1B principal's performance and have critical skills not general in nature. This does not mean that O-2 classification is available only if no U.S. worker can do the job, but it does mean that the O-2 alien must have special skills and prior experience with the O-1B alien that somehow make the O-2 alien unique. How much prior experience is a matter of USCIS discretion, but it should be enough to show that the O-1B and O-2 have a solid working relationship with one another. O-2 classification is available to a broad range of accompanying aliens, from personal assistants to makeup artists to performers. It will be more difficult to justify a chauffeur or a baggage handler.