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The O-1 visa is a non-immigrant employment-based visa classification for foreign nationals who can demonstrate the sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the science, education, business or athletics. It requires the employer to file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), along with evidence of the individual’s extraordinary ability. The "extraordinary ability means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor."

Contact theVISA office if the department is interested in sponsoring an O-1 visa.


  • Employment must be in a capacity that requires the extraordinary ability. The job offer letter must state the nature of the activities in which the individual will be engaged, and it must specify the dates, for which work authorization is being requested; no more than three years on initial applications, one year on all subsequent petitions.
  • A written consultation /advisory opinion from a peer group, or recognized expert, in the field in the individual's area of ability. An example might be a letter(s) of support from a renowned researcher(s), as evidenced by detailed curriculum vitae and publication list; that attest to the qualifications and work to be done by the O-1 petitioner.
  • Evidence that the researcher is recognized nationally and internationally as outstanding in their academic field. This evidence should consist of at least three (or more) of the following:
    • Receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievements in the academic field
    • Membership in academic associations which require outstanding achievements of their members
    • Participation on a panel, or individually, as the judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field
    • Citations in professional publications, written by others about the individual's work in the field
    • Authorship of scholarly books or articles, in journals with international circulation, in the field
    • Original scientific or scholarly research contributions to the academic field
    • Evidence of previous employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations having a distinguished reputation (e.g. NSF or Department of Defense research grants)
    • Evidence of high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in the field.

What type of visa will family members hold?
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may apply for O-3 visa status in order to accompany the O-1 visa holder to the US. O-3 visa status does not confer authorization for employment in the US.

Can the individual work for more than one employer?
The answer is yes. If the individual works for more than one employer at the same time, each employer must file a separate petition with the USCIS.

Can the individual change employers?
Yes, but a new petition must be filed by the new employer.

What would happen if the employment of the O-1 holder is terminated?
If the employment is terminated for reasons other than voluntary resignation, the employer is liable for the reasonable cost of return transportation of the individual to his/her last place of residence prior to entry into the US.

What if the O-1 visa applicant has a permanent labor certification or has filed a preference petition for permanent residence?
USCIS regulations state that the approval of a permanent labor certification or filing of a preference petition for permanent residence shall not be a basis for denying an O-1 petition, a request to extend such a petition, or the alien’s application for admission, change of status, or extension of stay. [8CFR 214.2(o)(13)]

Is a J-1 nonimmigrant who is subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement required to fulfill this requirement or obtain a waiver of this requirement before holding O nonimmigrant status?
The answer is NO. The scholar would, however, be ineligible for changing his or her J-1 nonimmigrant status in the US, and must travel outside the US to apply for and obtain an O nonimmigrant visa to return for employment. According to the USCIS correspondence, J-1 nonimmigrant in valid status qualifies as an individual of extraordinary ability, "may (1) have an O-1 nonimmigrant visa petition approved on his or her behalf and (2) proceed abroad and apply for and receive from the State Department an O-1 visa, without first having to fulfill the two-year foreign residence requirement or obtain a waiver thereof." ( Interpreter Releases, Vol. 71, No. 39, Oct.7, 1994 8. INS Discusses § 212(e) Bar for J Aliens Who Qualify as O-1s [71 IR 1360]).