12 FAQs O-1 Visa Application Answered

Here are some common general questions we receive about the O-1 Visa Application Process. For more in-depth and specific information about obtaining an O-1 Visa, please see our other blog posts on the O-1 visa or contact us to schedule a consultation or assessment.  

What is an O-1 Visa?

An O-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for individuals who possess “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. To qualify for an O-1 Visa, you must be considered at the top of your field and have a demonstrated record of significant accomplishments and recognition. Some examples of eligible O-1 Visa holders include Olympic athletes, Broadway performers, and Nobel laureates. However, you can also get an O-Visa with lesser-known awards, no awards, and national and local recognition depending on your individual qualifications.

What are the primary steps of the application process?

To apply for an O-1 Visa, you will need an agent or employer to sponsor you. You will also need to submit documentary evidence outlining both your itinerary and purpose for visiting the U.S.; provide a consultation from an authorized organization, union, or expert; as well as demonstration of your extraordinary ability to meet at least three of the outlined requirements for qualification.

With the help of your immigration attorney, you will need to submit the petition to USCIS, and if you get approved, you will be granted O-1 Visa status or an O-1 Visa depending on if you are in the U.S. or outside the U.S. A change of status to an O-1 Visa if you are in the U.S. will lead to O-Visa status. Therefore, just like O-1 Visa applicants who are outside the U.S., you will need to schedule a visa appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country to get a visa before you can return to the U.S. on an O-1 Visa.

What are the Categories of O-1 Visas?

There are two categories of O-1 Visas. O-1A Visas are for individuals in sciences, education, business, or athletics. O-1B Visas are for individuals in the arts, the motion picture industry, or the television industry. It’s important to apply for the correct type of O-1 Visa so that you have a better chance of approval.

How do I demonstrate Extraordinary Ability?

Extraordinary Ability must be demonstrated through achievement of a significantly known award such as Nobel Peace Prize, Grammy, Oscar, Olympic medal etc., or by meeting three of the outlined criteria for extraordinary ability.

Criteria for O-1A

  • Receipt of lesser nationally and internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by experts in the field;
  • Published materials about the individual in professional or major trade publications, or appearance/published materials about the individual in other major media;
  • Participation, either individually or as part of a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the field (including having served as a reviewer/referee for articles to be published, on discussion and advisory panels, etc.);
  • Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, as published in professional or major trade publications or in other major media;
  • Serving in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation; and/or
  • Commanding a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, as compared to others in the field.

Criteria for O-1B

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about you in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators of title, rating, or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which you are engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements;
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence.

Attestation from other top professionals in the field, journal articles, local awards and medals, news interviews, highly publicized research, documentation of leading roles in a film or theatre production, and more can all be used to establish extraordinary ability. The petitioner must also provide a written advisory opinion from a peer group that can attest to the beneficiary’s ability that can be verified as authentic.

What happens if my application gets denied?

Since there is no annual limit on the number of O-1 Visas issued, you can apply any time throughout the year. If your application is denied, you can re-submit it and fix any parts of the application that caused its denial. You can also explore other visa options such as an H-1B, L-1, and more.

Can I Include Beneficiaries?

Although O-1 Visa applicants cannot include beneficiaries directly on their applications, there are two separate accompanying visas available. The O-2 Visa allows for individuals who are assisting performers and/or athletes to accompany them, and the O-3 Visa allows for spouses and children of O-1 and O-2 Visa holders to be admitted. The O-2 Visa requires an individual petition to be filed, demonstrating connection to an O-1 Visa holder. The O-3 Visa requires family members to apply either at the same time as the O-1/O-2 Visa holder or through a U.S. embassy once the O-1/O-2 Visa holder has already been issued their visa.

What happens if my employment gets terminated?

If your employment gets terminated, then you will no longer be eligible for an O-1 Visa. Unless you find a new sponsor and file a new petition, or change status to another visa, you will have to leave the United States and explore other visa options to return.

How much time do I have to leave the U.S. after my O-1 Visa expires?

Unless you apply for an extension in advance of the expiration date, you have a 60-day grace period to leave the U.S. or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter. USCIS can shorten or eliminate this 60-day grace period as a matter of discretion.

You can also apply to renew your O-1 Visa before it expires for up to three years.

Can I have more than one employer for my O-1 Visa?

Yes, you can work for multiple employers while on an O-1 visa. If you adhere to your contractual agreements with each of them, you are permitted to have more than one. You may also consider having an agent petition for you in the case of multiple employers.

Can I travel?

Yes, you can travel while holding O-1 Visa status. You will need to provide required documentation and verify your O-1 status, but once you do this, you can travel.

Who can be an agent for my O-1 Visa? 

See more information about who can be an agent on our blog post here.

Can I self-sponsor for an O-1 Visa?

If you are an entrepreneur and have your own company, you can self-sponsor for an O-1 Visa. See more information on our blog post here.

If you would like to learn more about the O Visa, please contact us for an assessment.


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