WHAT IS AN O-1 VISA?

The O-1 visa is a temporary employment visa available for aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, education or business. In practice, this includes nearly any field of endeavor: puppeteers, figure skaters, scientific researchers, and more. The O-1 visa can be a welcome option for highly talented individuals who are not eligible for any other type of visa.

HOW LONG ARE O VISAS GRANTED FOR?

O-1 visas are granted for the duration of an “event” (i.e. a grant, project, tour, etc.) and for an initial period of no longer than three years. There is no limit on extensions for the O-1 visa, which are granted in increments of 1 year at a time.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO AN O VISA?

There are a number of benefits to the O-1 visa:

  • The Department of Labor is not involved, therefore there is no prevailing wage issue.
  • J visa holders who are subject to the 2-year home residency requirement (212e) are eligible for an O visa. They cannot change status in the United States, however, and must consular process.
  • There is no cap to the number of O visas that may be granted in any fiscal year, like there is for H-1B visas.
  • There is no minimum degree requirement.
  • No license requirements: Often in areas that are desperate for people, license requirements are relaxed (i.e. teachers, social workers, doctors). H-1B petitions will frequently be denied on the grounds that a license is required, even if the hospital or school does not require a license. O visas cannot be denied on these grounds.
  • Dual intent is essentially allowed: An individual does not have to keep a foreign residency, and filing for permanent residency does not disqualify them from obtaining an O visa. Although only the H-1B and L-1 visa categories have true “dual intent”, meaning that there is no requirement at all to plan to stay in the United States temporarily. But the temporary intent requirement for O-1 visas is softened quite a bit. There is no need to show a foreign residence requirement, and filing the first steps of a permanent residence application is not a reason to deny an O-1 visa application. This makes the O-1 visa attractive for someone who does not have strong, continuing ties to her home country. We do recommend that the intent issue is discussed with an attorney before making travel plans.
  • If an individual qualifies for an O-1 visa, they may be qualified to petition for permanent residency based on Extraordinary Ability, which does not require a permanent job offer and also bypasses the lengthy labor certification process.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR O-1 VISA PETITIONS?

O-1 requirements are listed here.

WHAT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE SPOUSE AND CHILDREN OF AN O VISA?

O-2 visas are available to individuals that seek to accompany or assist an athletic or artistic event and the O-1 performer. O-3 visas are issued to the spouses and unmarried children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders. Please note that O-3 visa holders do not have work authorization.

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO HELP MY CASE?

Apart from sending us your documents and telling us about your area of expertise, there are a few things you can do to increase your likelihood of success, particularly if you are a researcher/academic. See a list of resources here.