The O-1 visa is a non-resident U.S. visa for people who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field, whether that be the arts, sport, business, education, or the sciences.
What is an O-1 Visa?
The O-1 visa could be considered the non-resident equivalent of the EB1-1 ( the “Extraordinary Ability Green Card,” which gives permanent residency). This does not mean that the O-1 visa requirements are any lesser/easy: the applicant needs to prove they are at the top of their field.
O-1 Visa Validity: The O-1 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. O-1 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 O-1 visa holder (i.e. spouse or unmarried children under age 21) can apply for O-3 visas, which allow them to accompany the primary visa holder for the duration of their stay in the United States, either arriving with the O-1 holder or at a later date. O-3 visa holders are permitted to study but not to work in the U.S.
Attorney’s Tips for O-1 Visa Applicants
O-1 Visa Requirements
Applicants must be able to provide sufficient evidence for at least three of the following O-1 visa eligibility requirements:
- Have received national or international awards or prizes of excellence in their field.
- Being 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 Visa Processing Time, Extensions, Renewals & Premium Processing
The O-1 is valid for up to three years. In some cases, the visa is granted to cover only a specific event, production, or activity and may be valid for a shorter time. O-1 visa extensions are available in 1-year increments, and there is no limit to the number of extensions. The O-1 visa holder must prove that they will continue in the same position or activity to qualify for an extension.
Employers can speed up the O-1 processing time by opting to pay a $2,500 premium processing fee for USCIS to approve, deny or issue an RFE within 15 calendar days. Otherwise, an O-1 visa generally takes two to three months to process.
More Tips on Qualifying for an O-1 Visa USA
O-1 Visa to Green Card
- The O-1 is very similar to the EB1-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card. However, it should be noted that the permanent residency option requires evidence of more sustained achievement.
- If they don’t meet that standard, they may look at the EB2 (Exceptional ability) or EB3 (Labor Certification) Green Cards.
- In the case of O2 visa holders (support personnel), they may be able to move to EB3 green card in certain circumstances.
How do I go from an O-1 visa to an EB-1A green card and how long does it take?
The O-1 visa provides a path to U.S. residency via the EB-1A green card that applicants can self-petition, employer-petition or get a National Interest Waiver for. The EB-1A green card is particularly desirable because the priority dates are current.
The EB-1A green card processing time generally takes six to eight months, but can reach a year – Premium Processing is available. Once the EB-1A green card (I-140 petition) is approved, you can submit an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence (adjustment of status form). USCIS takes about six months to adjudicate the I-485 adjustment of status and Premium Processing is not available.
On average, it takes around one year to transition from an O-1 visa to an EB-1A green card.
Please contact us to arrange your visa strategy session, where one of our immigration attorneys will be happy to help you navigate your options.