O-1 Visa

Q: How long does the O-1 visa last and can it be renewed or extended?

A: You are allowed to stay in the United States on an O-1 visa for the amount of time necessary to complete the event or activity with your petitioner employer that you list when you apply for the O-1 visa. This event or activity is limited to an initial period of three years, and you must be able to establish that you will need this much time for the proposed employment.

An O-1 visa can be extended. You must apply for an O-1 visa extension of stay. Grants of extensions are given in one-year increments. You may also be admitted to the U.S. up to 10 days before and up to 10 days after the O-1 visa validity period granted to you in order to get your personal affairs in order. You must be continuing in the same position or activity for which you were originally granted O-1 visa status in order to receive an extension. You must also be able to present evidence to show that your continued presence would be required.

A new consultation and advisory opinion from an authorized peer group is not required for an O-1 visa extension. Your petitioning employer will only need to provide a statement explaining the reason for the extension along with their extension application. Your spouse and children must also file a form and submit any supporting documents necessary in order to extend their stay.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Can I bring my spouse and children to the U.S. with me on an O-1 visa?

A: Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany you to the U.S. while you are on your O-1 visa status. They will need to apply for O-3 non-immigrant visa status and provide the required supporting documents and application fee in order to accompany you. An O-3 visa holder is authorized to change his or her status while in the U.S. and may apply for Adjustment of Status to become lawful U.S. permanent residents.

The documents required for an O-3 visa include:

  • Completed DS-156 Form (nonimmigrant visa application form)
  • Form DS-157 (supplemental nonimmigrant visa application form) is required for all male applicants between the ages of 16 and 45, irrespective of nationality
  • Original Form I-797 Notice of Approval
  • Original valid passport
  • Two identical passport-size photographs, with a plain white or off-white background, taken within the past 6 months
  • Older passports containing previous visas
  • Documents substantiating previous legal status in the U.S
  • Application fee
  • Reciprocity fee, if applicable
  • Copies of your documents
  • Proof of the dependent's relationship to you

Once your spouse and children have received their O-3 visas, they can either enter the country at the same time as you or join you in the U.S. later. They can travel in and out of the U.S. for short trips as many times as they would like. Dependents on O-3 visa status are not eligible to work in the U.S., but they may take part in full-time or part-time study while on an O-3 visa. If your dependents wish to work in the U.S., they must obtain a U.S. work visa.

Your spouse and children will be subject to the same period of admission and the same limitation as you. Thus, the initial stay on an O-3 visa is limited to three years, just as it is on an O-1 visa. An O-3 visa is eligible to be extended if the O-1 visa holder receives an extension. Your spouse and children’s O-3 visa status will end when your O-1 visa status ends.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What is the difference between an O-1 visa and an EB-1(a) visa?

A: Both of these visas are for people who are at the top of their field, and both allow you to legally and freely live and work in the United States. However, there is an important distinction between the two visa categories.

An O-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, meaning that it is for those who have a permanent residence outside the U.S but who wish to be in U.S. on a temporary basis. Whereas, an EB-1(a) visa (Alien of Extraordinary Ability) is an immigrant visa, meaning that it is for those who wish to live permanently in the U.S.

The requirements for the two visas are very similar – both require you to prove that you are nationally or internationally recognized in your field of endeavor. Generally, the O-1 visa is more difficult to qualify for. You do have the option of applying for both visas at the same time.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the application process.

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Q: Can a person who is partially or fully self-employed file an O-1 visa petition for himself or herself?

A: No. The regulations state that an O-1 visa applicant may not petition for himself or herself. The regulations require that an O-1 visa petition be filed by a U.S. employer, a U.S. agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent. Documentation is required to verify that the petitioning entity is a bona fide employer in the United States, that the petition is not based on employment that is just speculative, and that the terms and conditions of the employment qualify for the O visa classification. Therefore, if you are working for yourself, you will not be able to meet the requirements of this classification.

It is possible, however, for the foreign employer to be a corporation owned wholly or in part by the beneficiary. In this case, the petition must be filed by a U.S. agent. Again, the petition cannot be based on employment that is speculative and the other terms and conditions of the employment must qualify for the O visa classification. Additional information may be requested from the foreign employer to prove that there is work in place for you in the United States.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: I am already in the U.S. Can I change into O-1 visa status?

A: If you are already in the U.S., you can change your current non-immigrant status to an O-1 visa status if you meet all the qualifications of an O-1 visa applicant. However, this option is not available to those who entered the U.S. without inspection or who have overstayed their authorized length of admission under a previous non-immigrant status.

You may change your status from a J-1 visa to an O-1 visa in the U.S. if:

  • You did not enter the U.S. for graduate medical training, OR
  • If you entered in another J category and are either:
    • not subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement, or
    • have received a waiver.

However, if you are subject to the J-1 visa two-year foreign residency requirement, you may not change your status to an O-1 visa in the U.S. Instead, your employer can submit an O-1 visa petition on your behalf and then you must obtain an O-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas after the petition is approved. You can then enter the U.S. immediately without receiving a waiver or completing the two-year foreign residency requirement.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Who can be my petitioner or sponsor for an O-1 visa?

A: Your O-1 visa petition must be filed by a U.S. employer, a U.S. agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent. You, as the beneficiary of the O-1 visa, cannot also act as the sponsoring petitioner. Most petitions will be filed by traditional employers, where you will be performing one specific job throughout the time of your visa status. However, there are times when there is not the traditional employer/employee relationship between you and the person or company you wish to work for. In these cases, there may be a U.S. agent who is an individual that is a United States citizen or permanent United States resident who represents you or a foreign employer. If you are a traditionally a self-employed worker or independent contractor or someone who uses agents to arrange short-term employment with numerous employers (such as an actor, performer, musician, etc.), you will need a U.S. agent to file the O-1 visa petition on your behalf.

When a petition is filed by a U.S. agent on your behalf or on the behalf of the petitioning employer, it is subject to several additional conditions. For example, in order to file on your behalf and on the behalf of multiple employers, the petitioning employer must establish that it is “in business as an agent” for the purposes of filing the petition and provide supporting documentation, such as the complete itinerary of the events and contracts between you and the employer.

You are allowed to work for more than one employer at the same time on an O-1 visa. However, each employer must file a separate petition on your behalf with the USCIS. You are also allowed to change employers while on an O-1 visa, but only if your new employer submits a new O-1 visa petition. If your employment is terminated while you are on an O-1 visa, the employer is liable to pay the reasonable cost of your return transportation to your last place of residence prior to your entry into the United States.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What are the requirements for a scientist, businessperson, educator, or athlete who wants to file an O-1 visa petition?

A: As a scientist, you will need to provide evidence that you are at the top of your field. You will need to prove this by submitting supporting documentation along with your O-1 visa application. Evidence of receiving a major, internationally-recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, would clearly qualify you. If you have not received such an award, however, you can still meet the requirement by providing at least three of the following types of evidence:

  • Documentation of membership in associations in your field which require outstanding achievements of its members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field;
  • Documentation of receipt of lesser nationally (not necessarily U.S.) or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publication or in the major media about you and your work in your field;
  • Evidence of participation as a judge (individually or as a part of a panel) of the work of others in your field;
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in your field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Evidence of scientific, scholarly, or business related contributions of major significance in your field;
  • Evidence of performance in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations;
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others; and
  • Other comparable evidence.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What are the requirements for an artist who wants to file an O-1 visa petition?

A: As an artist, you will need to prove that you have acquired “distinction” in your artistic field in order to qualify for an O-1 visa. “Distinction” in your field means that you have reached a high level of achievement, shown by a degree of skill and recognition that is substantially higher than that ordinarily encountered in the field. You should be described as prominent, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

To establish your qualification as an artist for an O-1 visa, you should submit evidence of nomination or receipt of a major, nationally- or internationally-recognized award. Examples of these types of awards include an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director's Guild Award. If you have not been nominated for or received one of these awards, you can still prove you qualify for an O-1 visa by providing at least three of the following types of evidence:

  • Evidence of your performance in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations;
  • Evidence that you have been or will be performing a lead or starring role in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation (as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, press releases, publications contracts, or endorsements);
  • Critical reviews or other published material in professional or major trade publication or in the major media by or about you, which show that you have achieved national or international recognition or achievements;
  • Evidence of a record of major commercial or critically-acclaimed successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales;
  • Evidence of significant recognition for achievements form organizations, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field of arts;
  • Evidence of having commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in your field; and
  • Other comparable evidence.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What is an advisory opinion for an O-1 visa petition?

A: An advisory opinion is required and must be filed along with your O-1 visa petition. You must obtain this advisory opinion from an appropriate consulting entity, such as a labor organization, management organization, or peer group. The consulting entity should be a U.S. group or organization comprised of and governed by practitioners of your occupation who are of similar standing with you. It is preferable to have a labor or professional organization provide your advisory opinion.

For certain O-1 petitions, such as most artist petitions, it is mandatory to use a specific entity for your advisory opinion. For other O-1 petitions, such as most science and business petitions, there will not be a specific group. In these cases, an advisory opinion can be submitted from an “expert in the field” located in the U.S. The expert should be a prominent member of one or more professional organizations in your field.

The advisory opinion must describe your ability and achievements in your field of endeavor and the nature of the duties you will perform in the U.S. It will state whether you qualify as an alien of extraordinary ability in your field and whether the extraordinary abilities that you have are required for the activities that you will undertake while in the U.S. on an O-1 visa.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Is there a way to speed up my O-1 visa application process?

A: Yes. The USCIS has implemented a program called Premium Processing, which can reduce your processing time significantly. With this program, you may have your O-1 visa application processed within 15 calendar days. The 15 calendar day period begins when your request is received by USCIS. You will need to apply for premium processing and pay a fee of US $1,225 directly to USCIS. The USCIS will then guarantee that your application will be processed within the 15 calendar days or they will refund you premium processing service fee. If your service fee is refunded by USCIS, your case will still continue to receive expedited processing. Cases filed for dependents, such as your wife or children, are often processed within the premium processing timeline if they are filed at the same time.

Note that USCIS simply guarantees that your case will be processed during these 15 days, not that your case will necessarily be adjudicated during that time. The actions that USCIS commits to taking during the 15 calendar days include:

  • Issuing an approval or denial notice;
  • Issuing a request for evidence (RFE) or a notice of intent to deny (NOID); or
  • Commencing an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation.

If your case requires additional evidence or a notice response to be submitted, you will receive a new 15 calendar day period upon receipt by USCIS of the requested evidence.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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