- What Qualifies for Extraordinary Ability?
- O1 Visa requirements
- How to Apply for an O1 Visa
- How Long Can You Stay on an O-1 Visa?
- Switching from an O-1 to a Green Card
- Family of O-1 Visa Holders
- Can An O-1 Visa Holder Change Employers?
- Material Change in Terms and Conditions of O-1 Employment
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is the O-1 Visa?
The O-1 visa is designed for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in certain fields. This includes the arts, business, science, and education.
It is one of the most prestigious U.S. work visas due to its numerous advantages and flexibilities compared to other similar categories.
There are two tiers of O-1 visas, namely O-1A and O-1B. The O-1A visa is designed for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in various fields, which include education, business, science or athletics.
The O-1B visa is for individuals who have extraordinary abilities in arts or have recorded extraordinary achievements in the television or motion industry.
The O-1 is a dual intent visa, which allows you to adjust your status from temporary resident to a green card holder, also known as permanent resident status. If you meet all the requirements for a green card, you may also submit a green card petition for your family members.
You can learn more about this by speaking with one of our immigration lawyers via our online contact form or call us on +1 844 290 6312.
What Qualifies as Extraordinary Ability?
In the context of an O-1 visa, “extraordinary ability” refers to a higher level of expertise that is largely uncommon in a given industry or field. In order words, it is the type of skill set, ability, or achievement demonstrated only by a small percentage of professionals.
What determines extraordinary ability may vary from one industry to another.
In order to be classified as a professional with extraordinary ability, you must demonstrate some levels of distinction in your field. Your skills must get recognition, and your level of competence should be regarded as leading and well-known in the field.
You will need to present evidentiary documents that distinguish you from your peers in the field.
Requirements for O-1 Visa
To be eligible for an O-1 visa, you will need to meet certain conditions. First, you are required to demonstrate the ability or achievement of national or international acclaim. In addition, you need to provide at least three of the following documentary evidence:
- A nationally or internationally recognized award of excellence in your field
- Membership in a reputable association in your field
- Evidence of contribution of major significance in your field
- Published material in accredited and professional publications
- Proof of employment in a critical position within an organization with a distinguished reputation in your field
How to Apply for an O-1 Visa
The O-1 is a petition-based visa. This means you will need an employer or agent to file the petition on your behalf.
Your employer will need to submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They must submit the form along with the required supporting documentary evidence. In addition, the petition must be submitted with the following:
This is a written advisory opinion from an expert or a peer group in your area of ability. If you are applying for O-1B (television or motion picture industry), the consultation must be from an appropriate management organization or labour union with expertise in your area of ability.
The consultation must include a watermark or other distinctive marks to ascertain the authenticity of the document. Documents that don’t come with such marks of authenticity may raise doubts about their genuineness.
Exceptions to the Consultation Requirement
If the petitioner can demonstrate that an appropriate peer group or labour organization does not exist for the case, USCIS may waive the consultation requirement. In that case, they will evaluate your application based on the supporting evidence submitted along with Form I-129.
The petition must include a copy of any written contract between you and your employer. The contract must have detailed information about the wage offered and all the conditions of employment. If there is no written contract, the petitioner must submit a summary of the terms of the oral agreement. This must include what was offered by the employer and what was accepted by the employee.
The petition must also include a detailed explanation of the nature of the events or activities in the United States. It should lay down your travel plan, agenda, schedule, timetable, and other activities included within your period of stay on an O-1 status.
The petition must include at least three of three different types of documents listed under the requirements for an O-1 visa. If you don’t have the exact documents listed above, you can provide comparable evidence similar to them. The most important thing is to present them in a way that highlights and supports your eligibility for the visa.
How Long Can You Stay on an O-1 Visa?
In most cases, the O-1 visa is granted for an initial three years period of stay. Subsequently, you can apply for an extension of stay, which usually comes in increments of one year for each renewal.
There is no limit to how many times you can renew your O-1 visa, as long as you keep meeting the requirements for extension.
When you submit your application for renewal, USCIS will review it and determine if your stay should be extended.
To file an O-1 extension, you will need to submit the following documents to USCIS.
- Form I-129 Petition
- A copy of your Arrival/Departure Record, Form I-94
- A statement explaining why you need an extension of stay
Your renewal application must be submitted with a statement detailing the event that was the basis of the original approval. You must explain that the extension is needed to allow you to continue or complete the same activity in the US.
If your children are with you in the US on an O-1 derivative visa (O-3 Visa), they will also need to keep renewing their status. They can do this by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status.
Their application must also include necessary supporting documents.
Can I Change from an O-1 Visa to a Green Card?
The O-1 allows you to seek permanent residence in the US. It is one of the nonimmigrant visas with a smooth adjustment process from temporary to permanent status.
While still working as an O-1 holder, you can commence your green card application process. There are various categories of employment-based green card available to O-1 visa holders. You may need an employer to sponsor your application or self-file the petition. This depends on the category you are applying for.
Many O-1 visa holders leverage the first tier of the US employment green card, known as EB-1 Visa. This is because the two categories have similar eligibility requirements. While still on an O-1 visa, you can start building an impressive portfolio to support your EB-1 green card application. If you meet the EB-1 green card requirements, you may be eligible to sponsor your permanent residence application without the need for a job offer from an employer. The overall processing time for status adjustment may take up to a year.
Individuals on O-2 visas can also apply for status adjustment to become permanent residents in the US. Their petition will be assessed based on their own merit. They may be eligible for different classifications, including the EB-2 and EB-3 green card categories.
Family of O-1 Visa Holders
As an O-1 visa holder, your spouse and children under the age of 21 can accompany or join you in the US. They will need to apply for O-3 nonimmigrant visa. If approved, they will be granted the same period of admission and limitation as you. They may not qualify to work under O-3 status, but they may study in the US either on a part-time or full-time basis.
Material Change in Terms and Conditions of O-1 Employment
You can change employers while on an O-1 visa. If you want to work for another employer different from the one that sponsored your original petition, your new employer must file Form I-129 with USCIS.
If an agent sponsored your original petition, your new employer must file an amended petition. They must submit it with evidence they are your new employer and request for an extension of stay.
If there has been any material change in your employment terms and conditions, your employer will need to file an amended Form I-129 to reflect the changes. Material change refers to substantial changes in the originally approved terms and conditions. This may include changes in worksite location, adjusting from full time to part-time, tangible changes to your job duties, etc.
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Indefinite Leave to Remain
Spouse Visa Extension
Yes, the O-1 is a dual intent visa. This means you may simultaneously seek permanent resident status while in the United States on O-1 without worrying about preconceived intent issues.
If you lose your job as an O-1 holder, you may have up to a 60-day grace period to remain in the US and find another job. During this period, it might be okay for you to collect certain unemployment benefits, depending on your situation. But you will not be able to continue receiving benefits after the 60-day grace period is over.
Yes, you may engage in part-time study while working on O-1 status.
While the O-1 visa has some more stringent conditions than most other nonimmigrant visas, obtaining it isn’t as hard as many people think. Even if you don’t have the exact documentary evidence listed under the requirements, you may still present comparable evidence to support your application. The most important thing is how thorough and convincing you present your petition to USCIS. This is why the importance of working with an experienced O-1 visa immigration lawyer cannot be overemphasized.
The filing fee for Form I-129 for the O-1 visa petition is $460. If you wish to use premium processing to get a decision within 15 days, you will have to submit Form I-907 along with the petition. This will cost you an additional $2,500.
If the O-1 beneficiary (employee) is outside the United States, they will have to apply for a US nonimmigrant visa at a US embassy/consulate in their country of residence. They will have to complete Form DS-160, which costs $190.
The O-1 classification has many benefits that aren’t available in the H-1B category. Some of them are as follows:
- Unlike the H-1B visa, O-1 applicants don’t have to undergo a lottery system of selection. The H-1B annual cap automatically places some restrictions on the visa and calls for a lottery system to randomly select applicants.
- Applicants’ chances may not necessarily be based on their competence but sometimes on luck, as they may lose out during the random selection. O-1 petition is not subjected to such restriction.
- You can submit an O-1 petition any time: Unlike the H-1B visa, which is only open for applications once a year, you can apply for an O-1 visa any time, as long as the job will start within one year from application.
- There is no limit to the number of extensions: As an O-1 holder, there is no limit to the number of times you can apply for renewal to remain in the US. Individuals on H-1B can only stay for a maximum of 6 years.