Understanding the O-1 Visa

The O-1 Visa is a non immigrant visa for the United States that is available to individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.

Indian nationals can become an O-1 Visa holder provided they meet the eligibility criteria.

What counts as extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement?

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interpretation of extraordinary ability, whether in sciences, education, business, athletics, or the arts, must be demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.

This evidence plays a critical role in demonstrating your qualifications for the visa. There are several types of evidence that can support your application:

  • Having a major internationally recognized award: If you have received prestigious national or international awards or honors in your field on an international level, such as a Nobel Prize, an Academy Award, or an Olympic medal, these internationally recognized prizes serve as strong evidence of your extraordinary ability.
  • Memberships in distinguished organizations: Being a member of esteemed professional associations or organizations whose membership requires outstanding achievement related to your field can demonstrate your exceptional standing and recognition within your industry. Examples include membership in the National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society.
  • Publications and scholarly contributions: Providing evidence of your significant contributions to scholarly articles, publications, major trade publications, research papers, books, or other major media can establish your expertise and impact in your field. This may include citations of your work by other experts or references to your research in academic journals.
  • Media recognition and critical acclaim: If your work has received substantial coverage in major media, such as interviews, features, or positive reviews in prominent publications or broadcast networks, it highlights your prominence and public national or international recognition. In the arts, you must showcase your outstanding achievements in the motion picture or television industry as a lead or starring participant in projects of sustained national or international acclaim.
  • Evidence of work of major significance: This entails providing evidence of original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in your field.
  • Evidence of serving in a leading or critical capacity: This would typically entail positions in which you play or have played a key role in the performance of a company or organization.
  • Evidence of high salary or remuneration: Demonstrating that you have commanded a high salary or received other significantly high remuneration for your services can further support your claim of extraordinary ability or evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation. This can be accomplished by providing employment contracts, tax records, or other official documentation.
  • Other relevant evidence: This could include any other evidence of exceptional abilities or expertise that does not fit into any of the above categories.

Additionally, you must clearly articulate in your application how your extraordinary ability or achievement directly relates to the work you will be undertaking in the United States and how your presence in the country will significantly benefit your field.

By presenting a comprehensive portfolio of evidence showcasing your exceptional abilities and achievements, you enhance your chances of obtaining this visa and gaining the opportunity to contribute your expertise in the United States.

O-1A and O-1B subcategories

O-1A Visa:

If you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, the O-1A Visa is for you. This category covers professions such as researchers, scientists, professors, business executives, or professional athletes. To qualify, you must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in your field of expertise.

O-1B Visa:

On the other hand, if you have extraordinary ability in the arts or have obtained significant recognition and a high level of achievement in the motion picture or television industry, the O-1B Visa is the appropriate subcategory for you. This includes actors, musicians, singers, dancers, directors, producers, and other artists. To be eligible, you must showcase a high level of achievement and distinction in your field, evidenced through critical acclaim, leading roles, notable performances, or awards.

Application Process for an O-1 Visa

The application process consists of several important steps that must be followed diligently. The first step is to secure a job offer or engagement from a US employer who will act as your sponsor. This employer plays a critical role in the application process as they are responsible for filing a petition on your behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker filed by your employer should include a comprehensive collection of supporting documents that demonstrate your extraordinary ability or achievement in your field. These documents are vital in substantiating your eligibility.

Examples of supporting documents may include letters of recommendation from industry experts attesting to your exceptional skills and contributions, contracts or agreements outlining the terms of your employment or engagement, and evidence showcasing your notable achievements or recognition.

After the USCIS approves the petition filed by your employer, you can proceed with the actual visa application. This step involves visiting a US Embassy or consulate in your home country to submit your application and supporting documents.

The embassy or consulate will review your application, conduct an interview if necessary, and make a final determination on whether to grant you this visa.

It is essential to meticulously prepare your application package and ensure that all necessary documentation is included.

Additionally, it is recommended to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and procedures of the US embassy or consulate where you will be submitting your application.

Following the instructions provided by the embassy or consulate and providing thorough and compelling evidence of your extraordinary abilities or achievements will enhance your chances of a successful application.

O-1 Visa application fees

If you’re seeking a change in your status, extending your status, or applying for an O1 visa, you must submit Form I-129 to USCIS. The filing fee for Form I-129 is $460.

In case your spouse and/or children are pursuing a change in status to O-3 as dependents to your O-1 or extending their O-3 status, they will be required to complete a Form I-539. The filing fee for Form I-539 is $370.

If you are applying for an O-1 visa, both you and each of your dependents are required to file a Form DS-160 with the Department of State. The DS-160 fee is $190 for each applicant. You are not required to file a DS-160 if you are applying for a change of status or an extension of status.

What is the processing time for an O-1 Visa application?

The processing time for an O-1 Visa application is typically about three months. To expedite the process, applicants can apply, when they submit their application from inside the US, for premium processing, which costs $2,500.

The advantage of premium processing is that when it is applied, the USCIS will make a decision within 15 calendar days of receiving the application.

How long does an O-1 Visa last?

An O-1 Visa is valid for up to three years. In some cases, the visa is granted to cover only a specific event and may be valid for a shorter time period.

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions for your O-1 Visa application?

If you think the O-1 Visa may be the right option for you, or if you’d like to know more about other US visa options, don’t hesitate to contact us and book a complimentary 30-minute call with one of our experts.

How Can Global Citizen Solutions Help You?

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

  • We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top residency by investment and citizenship by investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance. 
  • Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100 percent approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and guarantees that you can expect a successful application.
  • Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
  • Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
  • The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.

Frequently Asked Questions about the O-1 Visa for Indians

Who is eligible for the O-1 Visa?

The visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.

Can the O-1 Visa lead to a Green Card?

As an O-1 Visa holder, you have the potential to obtain a Green Card (permanent residency) in the United States. While this visa itself does not directly lead to a Green Card, there are pathways available from an O-1 Visa to permanent residency.

You can explore employment-based Green Cards through employer sponsorship or consider the Extraordinary Ability Green Card (EB-1A) category, which allows self-petitioning based on sustained acclaim in your field.

Another option is the National Interest Waiver (NIW) category, which exempts the need for employer sponsorship by demonstrating your work’s national importance.

The Green Card process can be complex, so consulting an immigration professional is advised for personalized guidance.

Are Indian citizens eligible for the O-1 Visa?

Yes, the O-1 Visa is available to Indian citizens and individuals of all nationalities, provided that they meet the extraordinary ability and achievement requirements.

Are there any specific requirements for Indian citizens?

There are no specific requirements for Indian citizens, but it is worth noting that premium processing is only available when an application is made within the US.