What is the O1 Visa and How to Apply?
The O1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to individuals who have an extraordinary ability in the arts, education, business, or athletics or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. Qualifying applicants must have national or international recognition for their ability or achievements.
Petitioning for the O1 Visa: Employer Files Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
The process for obtaining an O1 visa is driven by the employer of the potential employee who possesses extraordinary ability or achievement.
The first step to obtain an O1 visa requires the U.S. employer, U.S. agent, or foreign employer to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the potential employee’s behalf. Commonly, a U.S. agent who is inside the U.S. will file Form I-129 on behalf of the employer.
When submitting Form I-129, the employer must include the required evidence showing the potential employee’s qualifications for the O1 visa. The employer or agent must not file the form I-129 more than one year prior to the date the employer needs the potential employee’s services. The USCIS recommends an employer or agent file the form I-129 at least 45 days prior to the date of employment.
How Long Does it Take to Process an O1 Visa Application?
Generally, the USCIS processes the Form I-129 petition within 2-3 months after it is submitted, though processing time can vary depending on the service center processing the petition.
Once the Form I-129 petition is approved, the process is turned over to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Consulate processing times can vary, depending on a multitude of factors, including staffing, volume of applications, and others.
O1 visa applicants may choose to have their petition reviewed under premium processing, which expedites the processing of Form I-129 to 15 days at most. The fee for premium processing is $2,500, though this fee will be refunded if the processing time lasts longer than 15 days.
For how long is the O-1A visa valid and are extensions available?
The O1 visa is valid for up to three years. Extensions are available for up to one year; however, the exact length of time will be determined based on how long it will take an applicant to accomplish the event or activity for which they seek U.S. entry. There is no limit on the amount of 1 year extensions a visa holder may receive.
O1 visa holders may be in the United States 10 days prior to the beginning of their validity period, and 10 days after. However, O1 visa holders may only work during the validity period.
O1 visa holders who need to extend their stay in order to continue or complete the same event or activity for which the O1 visa was approved, must have their employer or agent file the following documents with USCIS:
- 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.
How Long Does it Take to Renew the O1 Visa?
The process to renew the O1 visa typically takes a similar amount of time, 2-3 months, as the initial processing time for applying for the O1 visa.
Similar to the application process, premium processing is available for an O1 visa renewal.
Will My O1 Renewal Be Approved?
Individuals with a valid and current O1 visa will not automatically receive a renewal or extension of their visa. The O1 visa holder must apply for renewal and must meet the following criteria in order to receive approval:
- Possession of a valid passport that will remain valid through the visa holder’s stay in the U.S.;
- No violations of visa conditions and no criminal convictions;
- A statement provided by the visa holder’s employer explaining why the renewal is necessary;
- Possession of a Form I-94 that shows a departure date that has not passed;
- A newly filed Form I-129 petition for the extension.