The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.
To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate said extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, or a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry. You must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.
Your initial period of stay includes the time needed to complete the event or activity, not to exceed three years. You may be eligible to extend your stay in increments of up to one year to continue or complete the same event or activity.
As an O nonimmigrant, you may be admitted to the United States for the validity period of the petition, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends. You are only authorized to work during the validity period of the petition.
If your spouse and children under the age of 21 will be accompanying you or join you later (called “following to join”), they may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa, that will be subject to the same period of admission and limitations as you. They may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may participate in full-time or part-time study on an O-3 visa.
How to Apply to an O1 Visa ?
To begin the petition process for an O-1 VISA, your employer or agent must file form I-129 (Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker) for you and submit the appropriate fee and supporting documentation. Each O-1 beneficiary must satisfy the requirement for being an individual with “extraordinary ability or achievement”:
- Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field.
- Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.
- To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, you must demonstrate extraordinary achievement. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.
- To qualify for an O-2 visa, your assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A visa holder’s performance and you must have critical skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder that are not of a general nature and cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker. In the case of an O-2 visa holder in the motion picture or television industry, you must have skills and experience with the O-1 visa holder that are not of a general nature and which are critical either based on a pre-existing longstanding working relationship or, with respect to the specific production, because significant production (including pre- and post-production work) will take place both inside and outside the United States and your continuing participation is essential to the successful completion of the production.
After USCIS receives the filed Form I-129, your employer or agent will receive:
- A receipt notice confirming USCIS received the petition
- Biometric services notice (if applicable)
- A notice to appear for an interview (if required)
- A notice of the decision made by USCIS.
If USCIS approves the filed petition, you can apply for the relevant O visa at your respective U.S. embassy for Consulate in your respective country.
Change in Employer/Terms and Conditions of Employment with an O1 visa
If you are an O-1 nonimmigrant in the United States and want to change employers, the new employer must file Form I-129 with the USCIS office listed on the form instructions. If an agent filed your original petition, your new employer must file an amended petition with evidence showing they are your new employer and a request for an extension of stay.
If there has been any material change, those other than the addition of additional performances or engagements that require someone of extraordinary ability, in the terms and conditions of your employment or eligibility, your employer or agent must file an amended Form I-129 with the service center where the original petition was filed.
There are special rules for O-1 professional athletes. If you are traded from one team to another, employment authorization will continue with the new team for 30 days, during which time the new employer must file a new Form I-129. Filing the new Form I-129 within this 30-day period extends your employment authorization at least until USCIS processes your petition. If the new employer does not file a new Form I-129 within 30 days of the trade, you lose your employment authorization. You will also lose your employment authorization if USCIS denies your new Form I-129.
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