O-1 Visa

The O1 visa is a non-resident US visa for people who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field, whether that be the arts, sport, business, education, or the sciences.

The O1 could be considered the non-resident equivalent of the EB1-1 (which gives permanent residency). This does not mean that the requirements to obtain an O1 are any lower: the applicant needs to prove they are at the top of their field.

O-1 Visa Questions

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Top 10 Questions about O-1 Visa

Applicants must be able to provide sufficient evidence for at least three of the following conditions:

Have received national or international awards or prizes of excellence in their field.

Being are a member of associations whose membership requires outstanding achievement, judged by nationally or internationally recognized experts in the respective discipline.

Their work has been featured in professional or high-profile trade publications, or mainstream media.

The applicant has served in some capacity as a judge of others in the same (or closely related) field. This could either be individual or as part of a judging panel.

Have had articles published in professional or notable trade publications.

Have made original scientific, academic, or business contributions of major significance in their respective field.

Have served in a leading or critical capacity for highly regarded organizations or establishments.

Command a high salary or remuneration for their services.

Other relevant evidence of exceptional expertise that does not fit any of the above criteria.

O-1 status is distinguished from other employment visas since it applies to diverse work categories. For example, H-1B status is limited to professionals and cannot apply to athletes or entertainers. Sometimes the O visa is sought by non-immigrant workers, with extraordinary ability, who failed to be counted in the annual H-1B quota. This is because the O visa is not restricted numerically by an annual quota.

An O-1 Visa Applicant has the benefit of being able to work despite the J-1 Visa two-year foreign residency requirement. While many individuals who hold or have held J-1 or J-2 status are not permitted to obtain an H or L visa status (until they: satisfy the two-year foreign residence requirement or obtain a waiver) they may obtain O status. In such cases however, the alien may not change status to O-1 in the U.S., but must obtain an O-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate after their O-1 application is approved by the USCIS.

The O1 visa is normally valid for up 3 years. However, if it is granted to cover a specific event, production, or activity, the period may be less. Extensions are available in 1-year increments, and there is no limit on extensions, however the visa holder must show that they are continuing with same position or activity for which the original visa was granted.

Dependents of an O1 visa holder (i.e. spouse or unmarried children under age 21) can apply for O3 visas, which allow them to accompany the primary visa holder for the duration of their stay in the United States, either arriving with the O1 holder or at a later date. O3 visa holders are permitted to study but not to work in the U.S..
You cannot apply for an O visa on your own behalf. Generally, the employer must petition for the status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You can also file through a U.S. agent. This process is often used when you will work for multiple employers in the United States. Once the petition is approved, you must then apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

O-1 visas allow for “dual intent,” meaning that you may apply for permanent residency without jeopardizing your eligibility for the O-1 visa.  Furthermore, qualification for the O-1 visa category is similar to the requirements for the EB-1A permanent resident category, as Aliens of Extraordinary Ability.  Therefore, O-1 visa holders are likely eligible for permanent residency without having to file a labor certification application.

A US visa is solely for entry to the US. The visa’s expiration date is simply the last day on which you can use the visa to enter the US.

The visa has nothing to do with your ability to stay in the US (you do not need a valid visa to stay in the US, and conversely having a valid visa does not mean you can stay in the US); rather, it’s your status, determined by your I-94 granted upon entry and the rules of your status, that determines how long you can stay in the US. People entering on O-1 visa are admitted for the duration of their petition plus 10 days, unless your passport expires sooner (in which case your I-94 admission period will be limited by your passport expiry). That means, unless your passport is expiring soon, you will be admitted for about 3 years, and that is how long you can stay in the US. During most of that period, your visa will be expired, but that is irrelevant to your stay in the US.

You cannot get a US visa within the US (with the exception of certain diplomatic visas), because US visas are solely for entering the US, and if you are already in the US, you do not need to “enter” (at least not until you first leave the US). If you leave the US, and your visa is expired at that time, you can get a US visa at a US consulate in whatever foreign country you will be in.

You can, as long as you meet the requirements for O-1 visa.
The main qualification criteria for an O-1 visa is proven extraordinary ability in one of the specified fields. Extraordinary ability is demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim in your specific field or a record of extraordinary achievement.

Note that the O-1 visa only applies to a person’s individual acclaim and not that of a group. Being a member of a group with extraordinary abilities or achievements will not, by itself, qualify you for the O-1 visa.

The first step for an O visa petition is to obtain an advisory opinion from an appropriate consulting entity, such as a peer group, labor organization, or management organization. The advisory opinion must indicate whether the individual qualifies as an alien of extraordinary ability and whether such extraordinary abilities are required for the activities to be undertaken by the alien. If the alien is seeking an O-1B visa (for an individual with extraordinary achievement in motion pictures or television), the advisory opinion must come from an appropriate labor union and a management organization with expertise in the individual’s area of ability.


An advisory letter is not required under the following circumstances:


An expeditious handling of the petition is requested (this can only be done in the event of an exigency such as an event that the proposed O-1 alien needs to attend, before an advisory opinion can be obtained)


An appropriate consulting entity does not exist as established by the petitioner; or


ONLY for aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts, a waiver of the advisory opinion may be made because a consultation has taken place within the prior two years with regard to a previous admission to render similar services.

Oftentimes a professional coming to the United States may technically qualify for several different working non-immigrant visas due to their academic, professional, or award-winning qualifications. Applying for the correct visa can greatly increase the chances of obtaining an approval. Variables such as yearly quotas, visa time limits, and residency requirements may lead to a specific work visa. Depending on the situation, an alien may find it more beneficial to apply for an H-1B instead of an O-1, or vice versa.

The O-1 and H-1B visas can often have common eligibility characteristics. The H-1B visa allows foreign professionals in specialty occupations to come to the United States temporarily to work for a U.S. employer. H-1B workers often work in fields including engineering, mathematics, science, biotechnology, businesses, etc. The O-1 visa is for aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts (including television and motion pictures), business or athletics. Extraordinary ability means that they have shown, through evidence such as scholarly publications or proof of high salary that they are at the top of their respective field. An alien seeking an H-1B visa in the science field may also be able to qualify for an O-1 visa, if they can provide the necessary documentation of their extraordinary ability. Other similarities between the two visas that might make them both attractive options include that they are both dual intent, employer-sponsored, and allow for spouses and children to accompany the primary visa holder.


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