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Not necessarily. Unlike almost all other nonimmigrant (temporary) visa for employment, the O-1 allows for a petitioner to be either a traditional employer or an “Agent.”

An Agent can be some US person or entity acting as a representative for both the foreign national Beneficiary of the petition, and individual companies or other people seeking to have that foreign national Beneficiary perform work for them (essentially, employers). The Agent will need to prove that it is “in business as an agent” but need only be “in the business of being an agent for purposes of the O-1 filing, not generally in the rest of its business activities. The petitioner need not hold itself out as being an Agent to the general public. While the Agent need not be a direct, traditional employer of the Beneficiary foreign national, it can be. An O-1 Agent petitioner can also be a person or entity of some sort authorized to act in the place of an employer (normally, where the employer is an overseas entity that can’t itself file the petition).

Not completely; a P-1 visa for internationally recognized athletes (individuals and teams) or musical group has something similar where a “sponsoring organization” can petition without being a traditional employer – they simply take responsibility that the representations make in the petition are factually true.