FAQ O-1 Visa

Qualifying for the O-1 Visa sounds like a tough nut to crack, however, this is not always the case. Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about this visa category.

If you have more questions please contact us.

The O-1 Visa is a temporary U.S. work visa for people who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field, whether that be the arts, sports, business, education, or the sciences. It allows the individual to work in the U.S. for a specific employer for up to three years with the potential for unlimited extensions in one-year increments. 

Evaluate your eligibility for an O-1 Visa here

The O-1 Visa is an employment-based Visa, so the applicant needs an employer or agent to apply. While self-petitioning is not possible, a U.S. company owned by the O-1 beneficiary may be eligible to file this petition. This is a great option for international startup founders. You qualify for an O-1A Visa if you have won a major internationally recognized award, such as an Olympic medal or a Nobel Prize, OR if you have accomplished at least three of the eight eligibility criteria.

If you are an artist, you will need to apply for an O-1B Visa instead. You can learn more about this category here.

O-1 Visa is an employment-based visa so you need an employer or agent to apply. While self-petitioning is not possible, a U.S. company owned by the O-1 beneficiary may be eligible to file this petition. This is a great option for international startup founders. Evaluate your eligibility for an O-1 Visa here.

The standard processing fee for an O-1 Visa is $460. If you opt for premium processing, you will have to spend an additional $2500. 

Please be aware that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued its final rule that has introduced a notable increase in fees for a range of immigration applications. This marks the foremost significant adjustment in fees since 2016, aiming to tackle the operational and financial hurdles faced by the agency. These updated fees will become effective on April 1, 2024, implying that all applications sent in after this date will incur the revised, elevated charges.

The O-1 Visa is an employment-based visa so you need an employer or agent to apply. There is also the option to use one’s own U.S. based company to sponsor their petition. If you need assistance with the incorporation of your company in the U.S., check out Start Your U.S. Company or contact us.

The O-1 Visa processing time is relatively short. A standard initial O-1 petition takes, on average, 8-12 weeks to prepare. The USCIS normally processes O-1 Visa petitions within 2-3 months. If you want to expedite your application process, premium processing can bring down the processing time to 15 calendar days. A petitioner can apply for an O-1 Visa whether they are inside or outside the U.S.

The O-1 Visa allows one to work in the U.S. for a specific employer for up to 3 years, with the potential for unlimited extensions in 1-year increments.

It is not as difficult as you may think! Often, prospective Visa applicants are intimidated by the eligibility criteria associated with the O-1 Visa. The ultimate success of the case will depend on developing a creative and relevant strategy to demonstrate, through supporting evidence, how the applicant’s abilities are extraordinary. The approval rate for O-1 Visas is actually quite high – between 80% and 95% – depending on the service center.

The O-1 Visa can only be renewed in one year increments, and the earliest one can ask for an extension is six months prior to the current expiration. For an O-1 Visa extension, the petitioner must fill out the I-129 form. After that, the petition will be subject to approval by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If a petitioner needs to renew their O-1 status, they will need to file a new petition with an explanation of why they require an extension. After that, the petition will be subject to approval by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

There are a number of reasons that can cause an O-1 petition to be revoked after it has been approved. This will happen if the petitioner goes out of business, files a written withdrawal of the petition, or notifies the USCIS that the beneficiary is no longer employed by the petitioner. Additionally, a petition can be revoked if the facts included in the petition do not represent the truth.

The final number of letters will depend on the number of achievements, and it can vary from 10 to 15. The USCIS generally requires four or five expert opinion letters to establish that the candidate is indeed one of the small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of their field. Other letters can confirm previous employment, membership or judging. These letters will be a fundamental component of an O-1 or EB-1A petition. Their quality can positively or negatively impact the results of the application, depending on how well-written and representative of the candidate’s achievements they are.

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As the spouse of an O-1 Visa holder, you would receive an O-3 status which allows you to stay in the U.S. for as long as the principal Visa holder remains in legal standing. However, O-1 spouses are not permitted to work in the United States. Taking up employment would be a violation of their Visa status, and may affect their legal position. An O-3 dependent may apply for a different immigration status that permits employment, if they qualify.

Although these categories of eligibility are very similar to each other, there is no guarantee that an O-1 Visa holder will qualify for a Green Card  (EB-1 Visa category). Qualifying for an O-1 Visa might support their case in obtaining an EB-1 Visa, but the USCIS considers an O-1 application and an EB-1 application as completely separate and independent of each other. The USCIS will analyze the EB-1 petition on its own merits, even if they have previously approved an O-1 application. However, if an applicant is able to successfully obtain the O-1 Visa, it is a good sign that their EB-1A petition could be successful as well.

Every O-1 Visa applicant requires an actual petitioner, also known as a sponsor. The sponsor does not necessarily have to be the employer. The regulations require that an O petition be filed by either a U.S. employer, a U.S. agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent.

Yes, you can. You can apply for an O-1 Visa at any time. Unlike the H-1B, there is no limit on the number of Visas available, as there is no annual lottery. There are no industry requirements, salary minimums, or required degrees. The O-1 Visa is also the better choice if you have an ownership interest in the company sponsoring your Visa. Finally, the O-1 can offer a direct path to permanent residency, because of similarities between the O-1 nonimmigrant Visa and the EB-1 immigrant Visa.

Yes, this is acceptable. However, there should still be someone in the company to show the legitimate employment, and employer-employee relationship.

The O-1A Visa is a dual intent visa (which allows foreign nationals to be temporarily present in the U.S. with the intention of possibly immigrating permanently) and it applies to experts from an array of different fields, be it STEM or the arts. It applies to high-level professionals, from entrepreneurs to athletes and artists. The EB-1A Green Card, like the O-1A Visa, can be obtained by an array of experts, namely: academics, researchers, scientists, doctors, educators, business executives, and other high-level professionals who are experts in their line of work. The O-1A Visa is given to aliens with extraordinary abilities, who don’t necessarily have the intention to immigrate to the U.S. The EB-1A Green Card is given to people with extraordinary abilities who have the intent to immigrate and live permanently in the U.S. Although the kind of evidence that applicants need to provide is similar in both cases, primarily, the intent for the Visas is different. There are a few other differences between the two types of Visas as well.

The granted duration of stay in the U.S. 

The O-1A Visa only allows temporary residence of up to three years in the country, while the EB-1 provides applicants with permanent residency. O-1A Visa holders will not automatically be approved for an EB-1A, since the two categories have different terms for acceptance.

The two are not interchangeable

The requirements for an EB-1A Green Card are much more strict than that of an O-1A Visa. EB-1A candidates should be able to show considerable evidence that they are at the top of their field, in other words, the best at what they do. In fact, an applicant with remarkable achievements can self-petition for it and will not need an employer to sponsor them. Unlike the EB-1A, all O-1A Visa applications require sponsorship.

Differences in rights granted to the family 

Another difference between the two is the rights that are granted to family members. O-1A Visa holders’ spouses and children will not automatically receive the right to work in the U.S. More than likely, they will be granted O-3 Visas, which will allow them to study in the U.S. but not to work. However, spouses and dependents of EB-1A holders are also granted Green Cards upon approval, as long as the children applying as dependents are under the age of 21.

In general, O-1 Visa holders must remain employed by the employer listed on their petition. O-1 Visa holders who have lost their jobs have a grace period of 60 days, or until their authorized expiration date (whichever date is sooner), to stay in the country. If they do not apply to change their status or cannot find another employment sponsor in the 60-day grace period, they must exit the United States. It is important to note that the 60-day period begins on the day the employment terminates — not at the end of a period of severance pay. Please note that the 60-day grace period may only apply once per authorized nonimmigrant validity period.

Yes, a job offer from a U.S. employer is a basic requirement for the O-1 Visa. The applicant must be coming to the U.S. to work or perform at an event or a series of events in the area of extraordinary ability. The term “event” is interpreted liberally, outside the fields of athletics and arts, and can include, for example, an ongoing research project for a private company. A USCIS approval authorizes the individual to work only in the position and at the company specified in the petition. An O-1 Visa holder may work for more than one employer, but each employer must file a separate visa petition.

Once your employment is terminated, your O-1 status would be invalidated. If that happens, you have a maximum 60-day grace period in which to either get another employer to sponsor you for O-1 employment, arrange for another Visa status allowing you to stay in the U.S., or make plans to exit the U.S.

You need to work with your host company for the entire period included in your O-1 Visa Approval Notice. If you wish to change employers before your O-1 Visa expires, you must complete an application and submit all the documents and forms all over again.

The O-1 category can be extended for a maximum of one year, an unlimited number of times. However, each extension request must be supported by strong evidence and a clear explanation. The best way to ensure that your pieces of evidence are solid and will give you a slam dunk case is to contact us to handle the specifics.

O-3 Visa holders can travel in and out of the country for short trips. An O-3 Visa holder can always enter and remain in the United States, as long as the primary O-1 or O-2 Visa holder maintains valid status. The Department of State does not limit the number of times the O-3 holder may travel in and out of the U.S. If the O-1 or O-2 Visa holder loses their status, the O-3 holders lose their status as well.

While it is possible, we recommend that you take a look at our blog post that is fully dedicated to this topic to understand the process.

When an employer is the petitioner, the beneficiary can only work for the employer. If the beneficiary wishes to work for more than one employer, they may either file concurrent O-1 petitions or consider filing with an agent petitioner. An agent petitioner allows the beneficiary to work for more than one employer, provided that each employer signs a contract with the petitioner. A petition filed by an agent is subject to additional evidentiary requirements, listed under 8 CFR 214.2(o)(2)(iv)(E). The evidence required depends on whether the agent is filing as an agent performing the function of an employer; as a person or company in business as an agent and filing for multiple employers; or as an agent for a foreign employer.