O-1 Visa

What is an O-1 Visa?

For those looking to live and work in the United States, but don't hold a permanent residency status yet, there is The O-1 visa is a non-resident U.S. visa.

This visa option was created for people with extraordinary ability within their field; be it artistry, sportsmanship, business savvy or scientific achievements.

Eligible applicants must prove that they are at an elite level of proficiency as well as meet all other qualification criteria. 

The O-1 is typically valid for three years upon approval from immigration services making this possible path to citizenship even more achievable!

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

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O-1 Visa Requirements

Applicants must be able to provide sufficient evidence for at least three of the following O-1 visa eligibility requirements:

  1. Receiving national or international awards or prizes of excellence in their field is a sign that an applicant has achieved the highest standards within their profession and have been recognized for their achievements by professional peers.
  2. Being a member of associations that require outstanding achievement, judged by nationally or internationally recognized experts in the respective field demonstrates an applicant's dedication and high level of expertise.
  3. Their work being featured in professional or high-profile trade publications, or mainstream media highlights the impact of their work on a broad audience.
  4. Serving as a judge for individuals or panels in the same or related fields provides evidence that an applicant's skill and experience is highly sought after and valued within their field.
  5. Having articles published in prestigious publications further validates an applicant's credibility as a leading expert in their field.
  6. Have made original scientific, academic, or business contributions of major significance in their respective field.
  7. Serving in a leading or critical capacity for highly regarded organizations or establishments proves they possess the skills necessary to lead successful projects with skill and finesse.
  8. Commanding a high salary or remuneration for their services confirms their value to employers as well as validates their expertise as a specialist in their field.
  9. Other relevant evidence of exceptional expertise that does not fit any of the above criteria may be taken into account by USCIS when evaluating an O-1 visa application, provided it has been properly documented and verified by sources such as educational institutions, portfolios of previous work, or industry recognition for notable accomplishments.

O-1 Visa Processing Time

Processing times for an O-1 visa can vary depending on the particular case and the USCIS processing center. Generally, it takes anywhere from 2 to 5 months for USCIS to review and decide whether or not to grant a renewal request. This time frame may increase during higher demand periods, such as summertime when student visas expire, or if an applicant’s case is complex. Ultimately, applicants must plan far ahead of their expiration dates because delays are always possible.

O-1 Visa Premium Processing

Premium processing for an O-1 visa is a way for employers to significantly speed up the time it takes to process an application. With this option, USCIS will assess the application and make a determination on approval, denial or issuing Request For Evidence (RFE) within 15 calendar days. The fee for premium processing is $2,500, which can be paid online. This option provides a great advantage to those looking to quickly secure their O-1 visa so they can start working and living in the US without delay. Otherwise, an O-1 visa generally takes two to three months to process.

O-1 Visa Renewals

The O-1 visa's renewal process requires applicants to go through similar steps as the initial application. A new I-129 form must be submitted with updated evidence and documentation of the applicant’s extraordinary achievements. The renewal request must be made before the expiration date of the current O-1 visa; this should be done at least 45 days prior. It is possible to renew an O-1 visa multiple times, but there is no guarantee because each request depends on the individual case and is subject to USCIS approval.

In addition to the I-129 form, applicants must include a copy of their I-94 (arrival and departures record) along with their renewal application. The I-94 displays an applicant’s authorized stay in the U.S., which needs to be updated by USCIS. This means that if the applicant has spent time outside of the country, then a new I-94 will need to be obtained before reapplying for the O-1 visa renewal. It is also important for applicants to know when their current O-1 visa expires as this date must be indicated on the form.

O-1 Visa Extensions

The O-1 visa does offer the possibility of an extension in certain circumstances. 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. A successful extension application shows that the applicant will continue working in the same capacity as when they first applied for their O-1 visa. As such, it is important to provide detailed information on the work or activity that the applicant will be engaging in, alongside evidence that they possess the qualifications necessary for an O-1 visa. Extension eligibility is determined by USCIS on a case-by-case basis, so applications must be well supported with relevant documentation to increase chances of approval.

More Tips on Qualifying for an O-1 Visa USA

O-1 Visa to Green Card

How do I go from an O-1 visa to an EB-1A green card and how long does it take?

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. The O-1 visa provides a great opportunity for those with extraordinary ability to gain permanent U.S. residency via the EB-1A green card. Applicants are able to self-petition, employer-petition, or be granted a National Interest Waiver (NIW) in order to obtain the EB-1A green card. This green card is especially advantageous as the priority dates are current, allowing applicants to receive their permanent residency without having to wait long periods of time.

What Does Self-Petitioning an O-1 Visa?

Self-petitioning means that the applicant does not need to secure a job offer from a U.S. employer in order to apply. This type of petition is beneficial for those who have received recognition and success in their field of expertise, as they can show that they are already extraordinary achievers and thus don’t need a job offer from an employer to prove it. The key requirements for self-petitioning include demonstrating extraordinary ability in their field, having sustained national or international acclaim, receiving recognition and acknowledgment by experts in the same field, and other factors established by the USCIS.

Please contact us to arrange your visa strategy session, where one of our immigration attorneys will be happy to help you navigate your options.

Most Common O-1 Visa Forms and Their Associated Cost 

  • Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker: This is the main petition form that must be filed by the employer or agent of the O-1 visa applicant. The filing fee for this form is $460.
  • Form I-797, Notice of Action: This form is used to notify the O-1 visa applicant of the decision on their petition.
  • Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application: This form is used to apply for a nonimmigrant visa, such as the O-1 visa. The filing fee for this form is $160.
  • Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record: This form is used to track the arrival and departure of nonimmigrant visa holders, including O-1 visa holders


Form I-797

Form I-485

Form DS-160

  • Cost $0
  • Receipt Notice 4-6 weeks
  • Filed by the Applicant
  • Notice of Action
  • Cost $460
  • Fees in USD
  • Filed on behalf of Employer
  • Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Cost $160 - $190
  • Fees in USD
  • Filed by the Applicant
  • Proof of Financial Resources

O-1 Visa FAQs

Can I Work With An O-1 Visa?

Yes, you can! There are some parameters with the O-1 visa you must list all the different jobs you have. That can include agent-based petition which has numerous direct employers, but you must stay employed with those listed as your direct employer, however you can have an employment relationship with your own company and as an employer of your company, your company can obtain clients and customers which you can work with. Under the O-1B if you get a deal memo, you can then receive additional deal memos that were not stated or underlined in the original petition. You can also study on the O-1 visa, most universities will allow O-1 visa holders to go to school at the university while they’re also working in their extraordinary ability.

Can O-1 Visa Apply For Unemployment?

Not really. The reason filing for unemployment is not advisable is because O visas specifically rely on the immigrants’ work to be valid. Being unable to maintain a job could be seen as “failure to maintain status.” Additionally it’s very common for most immigrants to not be eligible for unemployment insurance.

How Long Is An O-1 Visa Good For

Exactly three years from the date of approval! The O-1 visa may be valid for an initial period of three years and may be extended indefinitely in one-year increments. If you want to extend your O-1 during the extension application period you will need to prove the project continues after your initial allotted three years.

Is O-1 Visa Dual Intent?

Yes the O-1 is dual intent! An O-1 visa applicant can have a residence abroad “dual intent” is permissible for O-1 visa holders. The standards apply also to the O-3 accompanying the O-1 principal applicant.

What Two O-1 Classifications Are There?

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