O-3 Visa

What is the O-3 Visa?

The O-3 visa allows individuals who are the spouse or children of an O-1A, O-1B, or O-2 visa holder to temporarily come to the United States in order to be with the O-1A, O-1B, or O-2 visa holder. Thus, the O-3 visa is only issued in connection with a validly issued O-1 or O-2 visa.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for the O-3 Visa?

To qualify for an O-3 visa, an individual must be a spouse or an unmarried child under 21 years of age to an O-1A, O-1B, or O-2 visa holder. The O-1 or O-2 visa holder who the O-3 visa applicant is married or related to must be able to financially support the O-3 visa applicant(s) while they are in the United States. Under the O-3 visa, individuals can live in the United States as long as the O-1A or O-1B visa holder lives in the United States.

What is the process for obtaining an O-3 visa?

The process for obtaining an O-3 visa is driven by the employer of the potential O-1 or O-2 visa employee who is the spouse or parent of the O-3 visa applicant(s).

Step One: Employer Files Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker

The first step to obtain an O-3 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 O-1A, O-1B, or O-2 visa applicant’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 O-1 or O-2 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.

Step Two: USCIS Processes Form I-129

Once the USCIS receives Form I-129, the employer or agent of the O-1 or O-2 applicant will receive the following in return:

  • A receipt notice confirming the petition was received;
  • A notice to appear for an interview, if required;
  • A biometric services notice, if applicable; and
  • A notice of decision.

Step Three: Spouse and/or Children File Online Form DS-160

The spouse or child O-3 visa applicant must complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. This involves uploading a photo of the applicant that conforms to the U.S. Department of State photograph requirements. Once Form DS-160 is submitted, the employee must download and print the confirmation page showing Form DS-160 was completed and the filing fee paid. The confirmation page will need to be brought to the visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Step Four: Schedule Interview and Biometrics Appointment

When Form I-129 is approved, the USCIS will send Form I-797, Notice of Action. This may include with it a notice to appear for an interview and a biometric services appointment. The O-3 applicant is responsible for scheduling and appearing for his or her interview and biometrics appointment.

Step Five: Attend Interview and Biometrics Appointment

If requested, the O-3 applicant must attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, where an official will evaluate the applicant’s documentation and ask questions pertaining to why the applicant is seeking the O-3 visa, including about the applicant’s relationship with the O-1 or O-2 visa applicant/holder. The O-3 visa applicant may be able to schedule the interview to take place at the same time as the O-1 or O-2 visa applicant’s interview. Similarly, the O-3 applicant may be able to schedule the biometrics appointment to take place at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate when the visa interview is scheduled.

Before attending the interview, the O-3 applicant should compile certain documentation to bring with them to the interview.

The documents listed below must be brought with the O-3 visa applicant to the interview:

  • Confirmation page for Form DS-160;
  • Passport valid for travel to the United States that will remain valid for at least six months beyond the visa holder’s period of stay in the United States;
  • Application fee payment receipt;
  • Contract or letter of employment that confirms the O-1 or O-2 visa applicant’s upcoming employment;
  • The O-1 or O-2 visa holder’s form I-797;
  • A copy of the O-1 or O-2 visa holder’s passport;
  • A copy of the O-1 or O-2 visa holder’s visa;
  • A photograph that conforms to U.S. visa photo requirements;
  • The interview confirmation letter;
  • Proof of the applicant’s relationship with the O-1 or O-2 visa holder:
    • Valid marriage certificates for a spouse;
    • Valid birth certificate for children

Can O-3 visa holders study while in the United States?

Yes. O-3 visa holders may study full-time or part-time while in the United States so long as the original conditions of the O-3 visa are adhered to. If the educational program lasts longer than the period of validity for the O-3 visa, the visa holder should apply for a student visa that would permit them to remain in the United States for the purpose of completing their education. Continuing education is not a valid basis for extending the O-3 visa.

Can O-3 visa holders work in the United States?

No. O-3 visa holders are not permitted to work or earn income in the United States. Individuals who are in the United States on an O-3 visa and want to work must apply for and receive a work visa before beginning any work in the U.S. Individuals who impermissibly work in the United States will face penalties and consequences from U.S. immigration officials, including deportation and losing visa status. Due to this work limitation, the O-3 visa will only be granted when it can be shown that the O-1 or O-2 visa holder is able to financially support the O-3 visa applicant(s) while in the United States.

Can O-3 visa holders apply for a green card?

It depends. O-3 visa holders who are in the United States in connection with an O-1 visa holder may seek a green card if the O-1 visa holder seeks a green card. However, O-3 visa holders who are in the United States in connection with an O-2 visa holder may not seek a green card. This is because “dual intent” is not permitted for O-2 visa holders, and is thus not permitted for O-3 visa holders married or related to an O-2 visa holder. Dual intent means that a visa holder must show that they are maintaining residency in their home country throughout the duration of the O-2 visa, and have no intent to abandon their residence abroad.

For how long is the O-3 visa valid?

The O-3 visa is valid for the same length of time as the O-1 or O-2 visa it is connected to. Generally, O-1 and O-2 visas are 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 the O-1 or O-2 visa holder to accomplish the event or activity for which they seek U.S. entry.

O-3 visa holders may be in the United States 10 days prior to the beginning of their validity period, and 10 days after.

O-3 visa holders who need to extend their stay in order to remain in the United States with their O-1 or O-2 family member must 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 much does it cost to get an O-3 visa?

The application fee when filing Form I-129 is $460, which is commonly paid by the employer. The cost to file Form DS-160 is $160.

An applicant can pay $2500 for premium processing, which expedites the application process.

If an O-1 or O-2 visa holder’s employer terminates his or her employment for any reason other than the visa holder’s voluntary resignation, the employer must pay the reasonable cost of return transportation, including for any O-3 visa holders, to their last place of residence before entering the United States.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.