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How To Apply For an O-1 Visa For The United States

On this page, we will explain who qualifies for the temporary O-1 visa scheme in the United States, the requirements which must be met, and the application process. For expert assistance with your immigration matter, contact Reiss Edwards, immigration lawyers, and solicitors in London, on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk

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With the world’s largest economy, which is estimated to reach over $25 trillion in 2024, the United States has a great deal to offer prospective immigrants, especially those with high levels of skill and extraordinary ability. On this page, we will explain who qualifies for the O-1 visa scheme in the United States, the requirements which must be met, and the application process.

What is the O-1 visa for the United States?

The non-immigrant O-1 visa is for foreign nationals “with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement” and allows them to stay in the United States for up to three years. The scheme is specifically intended to encourage those at the top of their field in the areas of science, the arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture, and the television industry. There are four variants of the scheme, as we will explain below, catering for those in different specialties and disciplines.

What are the different types of O visas for the United States?

There are four different types of O visa for the United States, catering for both the main applicant and their family members, as follows:

  • O-1A: For those with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry);
  • O-1B: For those with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry;
  • O-2: For individuals who will accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance; and
  • O-3: For individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.

Am I eligible for an O-1 visa for the United States?

To make a successful O-1 visa application, applicants must:

  • Be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics and be “one of the small percentages who have arisen to the very top of the field”, or;
  • Have achieved “sustained national or international acclaim, or a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry”, or;
  • Possess extraordinary ability in the field of arts. This means you must have reached a high level of achievement in the field of the arts and have “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”.

All applicants must show that they will stay on a temporary basis in the United States to continue work in their area of extraordinary ability.

How do I apply for an O-1 visa?

A Form I-129 (Petition for a non-immigrant worker) first needs to be filed by the US employer, US agent, or foreign employer through a US agent on behalf of the applicant. This cannot be filed over one year before the visa is needed, but it should be submitted no less than 45 days before the date of intended employment.

With the petition, the following documents should be submitted:

  • A written advisory opinion from a peer group (referred to as consultation), labor union, or a person with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability. In some cases, it may be possible to make a successful filing without consultation, but only where it can be shown there is no suitable peer group or labor organization. In this case, employers or agents are required to submit a waiver request.
  • A contract between petitioner and beneficiary – the USCIS states, “The Petitioner must submit a copy of any written contract between you and the petitioner or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which you will be employed”.
  • Itineraries – the petitioner is also required to explain the nature of the events or activities and a breakdown of the schedule.
  • Evidence demonstrating O-1 eligibility – in addition to the above documents, petitioners also need to send evidence of your extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, education, or athletics, or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture industry.

How long are O-1 visas granted?

The initial period of stay in the US on an O-1 visa is up to three years, however, the actual amount of time granted will correspond to the validity period of the petition. The USCIS states, “As an O non-immigrant, 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 ten days after the validity period ends. You are only authorized to work during the validity period of the petition”.

It is possible to extend an O-1 visa if it is for the same event or activity. To extend an O-1 visa, your employer or agent will need to submit the following documents:

  • Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker;
  • A copy of your Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record; and
  • A statement explaining the reasons for the extension.

Can my family join me in the US if I hold an O-1 visa?

Yes, if you have a spouse or children under the age of 21, they will be able to apply for an O-3 visa. If granted, the period of validity will match that of the O-1 visa. In most cases, O-3 visa holders are not able to work in the US, but they can typically undertake study, whether part or full time.

Can I change employers while in the US on an O-1 visa?

Yes, but your new employer will need to file a Form I-129 petition, and you will need to wait for this to be approved by USCIS before starting work for them.

Reiss Edwards have the resources and expertise to assist with all aspects of US immigration. If you need assistance with your O-1 visa application for US or any other immigration matter, feel free to contact our Immigration Solicitor for help.

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Kiran Sardar

"I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this profes...

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Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

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Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR applicatio...

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