The O1 Visa US is for foreign nationals with extraordinary achievement or ability in their respective fields. If you’re a foreign national who possesses extraordinary ability or has achieved remarkable national or international recognition (substantially above that ordinarily encountered) in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, the O-1 Visa could enable you to work legally in the USA without needing visa sponsorship.

Navigating the O1 Visa process can be complex. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide covering all you need to know about securing this visa. Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

  • O1 Visa requirements
  • Application process
  • O1 Visa cost
  • How to bring your immediate family members, and more.

What is the O1 visa?

The O-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States specifically designed for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field, whether it be arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics. There are two subcategories within the O-1 visa:

  1. O-1A: For individuals with extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics.
  2. O-1B: For individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, applicants must demonstrate a high level of expertise and recognition in their field through achievements such as awards, publications, major newspapers, memberships in prestigious organizations, or other forms of acclaim. Additionally, they must have a job offer from a U.S. employer or agent who will sponsor their visa application.

The O-1 visa allows recipients to work in the United States for the sponsoring employer or agent for an initial period of up to three years, with extensions possible in one-year increments. Immediate family members, such as spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, may also accompany O-1 visa holders to the U.S. under the O-3 visa category.

O Visa General Eligibility Criteria

O1A and O1B subcategories

O1A Visa: If you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, the O1A Visa is for you. It covers professionals such as researchers, scientists, professors, business executives, and professional athletes. To qualify, you must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in your field of expertise, indicating that you are one of a small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their field.

O1B Visa: If you have extraordinary ability in the arts or have received significant recognition (you are well known and recognized nationally or internationally) and a high level of achievement in the motion picture or television industry, the O1B Visa is appropriate for you. It 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.

To be eligible for the O1 Visa, you’re required to provide substantial evidence that showcases your record of extraordinary achievement or ability in your field. This evidence plays a critical role in demonstrating your qualifications for the visa. There are several types of documentary evidence that can support your application. For the O1A, the criteria are as follows:

  • Documentation of your receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field of endeavor;
  • Documentation of your membership in associations in your field that require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field.
  • Published material about your work in the field in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
  • Evidence that you participated on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same field or in an allied field of specialization to your field;
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or in other major media;
  • Evidence that you have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • Evidence that you have either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services

For the O1B, the eligibility criteria is:

  • Evidence that you have performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in events which have a distinguished reputation;
  • Evidence that you have achieved national or international recognition for achievements in the field;
  • Evidence that you have performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • Evidence that you have a demonstrated record of major or critically acclaimed success;
  • Evidence that you have received significant national or international recognition for achievements from organizations, government agencies, or recognized experts within the field;
  • Evidence that you have either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field.

These examples illustrate the types of evidence that can strengthen your application; other reliable evidence and/or other comparable evidence may also be accepted, depending on your field of expertise. 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 US.

Application Process for an O1 Visa USA

The application process consists of several important steps that you must follow diligently. The first step is to secure a job offer or engagement from a US employer  (or a US agent or a foreign employer working with a US agent) 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).

Form I-129, filed by your employer, should include a comprehensive collection of supporting documentation that demonstrates your extraordinary ability or achievement in your field, as well as a copy of a written contract or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement with your employer. These documents are vital in substantiating your eligibility.

Examples of supporting documents may include letters of recommendation (a written advisory opinion) 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 Service Center approves the petition filed by your employer, you can proceed with the visa application. This involves visiting a US embassy or consulate in your home country to submit your application and supporting documentation. The embassy or consulate will review your application, conduct an interview, and make a final determination on whether to grant you this visa. If you’re applying from inside the US, you’ll need to apply to apply for a change of immigration status to an O-1, which the USCIS will adjudicate.

It’s essential to meticulously prepare your application package and ensure that all necessary supporting documentation is included. Additionally, if you’re applying from outside the US, you should 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 ability or achievement will enhance your chances of a successful application.

O1 Visa processing time

The processing time for an O1 Visa can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the petition and the workload of USCIS. However, in general, O-1 Visa petitions typically take between three weeks and four months to process.

Premium processing

Premium processing can expedite the processing time to 15 calendar days, but it is an additional expense.

The premium processing fee for an O1 Visa is $2,500, and you can apply for it either from within or outside of the United States. If you are applying from outside of the United States, you will need to submit your premium processing request to the USCIS National Visa Center (NVC). If you are applying from within the United States, you can submit your request to any USCIS service center.

Here are the steps on how to apply for premium processing for an O1 Visa:

  1. Complete Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.
  2. Pay the $2,500 premium processing fee.
  3. Submit your completed Form I-907 and fee to the appropriate USCIS service center or the NVC.

Once you have submitted your premium processing request, the USCIS will process your petition within 15 calendar days. If the USCIS approves your petition, you will be issued an O-1 Visa. If the USCIS denies your petition, you will be refunded your premium processing fee.

O-1 Visa interview process


  • Gather all necessary documentation, including your passport, O-1 petition approval letter, DS-160 confirmation page, and evidence of extraordinary ability.
  • Familiarize yourself with common interview questions and practice your responses.
  • Consider consulting with an experienced immigration attorney for personalized guidance.

Schedule your interview:

  • Schedule your interview with the US consulate or embassy in your jurisdiction.
  • Choose a convenient appointment date and time that fits your schedule.
  • Confirm your appointment and keep the confirmation document handy.

Anticipate the interview:

  • Understand the interview process and the types of questions typically asked.
  • Prepare thoughtful responses that articulate your extraordinary ability and benefits.
  • Demonstrate confidence and professionalism throughout the interview.
  • Highlight your unique contributions and achievements in your field.

The interview day:

  • Arrive well in advance of your scheduled time, allowing ample time for security checks.
  • Face the interview with confidence, greet the consular officer politely, and maintain eye contact.
  • Articulate your extraordinary ability, emphasize your achievements, and provide specific examples.
  • Address any concerns or questions raised by the consular officer honestly and transparently.

Post interview:

  • Await the consular officer’s decision regarding your visa approval or denial.
  • If approved, follow the instructions provided by the consulate or embassy to activate your visa.

O2 Visa

The O2 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa category specifically designed for accompanying individuals who will assist and support the O1 Visa holder in their work or performance in the United States. The O-2 Visa is available to individuals who have critical skills and experience that are necessary for the successful completion of the O1 holder’s activities.

To qualify for an O2 Visa, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Essential support role: Demonstrate that you will play an integral role in supporting the O1 holder’s work and your assistance is essential for the successful execution of their activities.
  • Defined relationship: Have a legitimate working relationship with the O1 holder. This can include being employed by the same employer or being contracted to work exclusively with the O1 holder.
  • Expertise and experience: Possess specialized skills, knowledge, or experience that aren’t readily available in the United States and are critical for the O1 holder’s work.

The O-2 Visa is dependent on the O-1 holder, and you can only obtain the O-2 Visa if the O-1 Visa holder is also eligible and has been approved. The O-2 visa duration will match the period of stay granted to the O-1 Visa holder.

To apply for an O-2 Visa, the US employer or agent of the O-1 Visa holder must file a petition on your behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition should include evidence of your essential role, expertise, and the need for your assistance. Once the petition is approved, you can apply for the O-2 Visa at a US embassy or consulate in your home country.

It’s recommended to consult with immigration professionals or legal experts to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria and understand the process fully. They can provide guidance and assistance throughout an O-2 application.

Period of Stay/Extension of Stay and Dual Intent Status

The initial period of stay is typically up to three years, but the O1 Visa’s validity can vary depending on the specific project or event. If you need to extend your stay, you can apply for extensions in one-year increments. There’s no limit to the number of extensions you can request, as long as you continue to meet the criteria for the visa category.

The O1 Visa’s dual intent status allows individuals to pursue permanent residency and gain a Green Card while maintaining their nonimmigrant status, offering flexibility in their long-term immigration plans. This enables them to simultaneously explore permanent residency options without jeopardizing their authorized stay in the United States.

If you’re interested in becoming a permanent resident, you can begin compiling evidence for an EB-1 application, which has similar requirements to the O1 and does lead to a Green Card. It’s important to note that an O1 approval doesn’t guarantee an EB-1 approval.

Family Members of O1 and O2 Visa Holders

The O3 Visa is specifically designed for the dependents and family members of O1 and O2 Visa holders, allowing them to accompany you during your stay in the United States. The O3 only permits residence in the US and doesn’t grant work authorization, though it does enable them to attend school or college, either part-time or full-time.

To qualify for an O3, your dependents be your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21. Additionally, you must have a valid visa status or have a pending application for an extension or change of status.

To initiate the O3 application for your dependents, you will need to follow these steps. First, you should complete the online nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160) for each family member seeking an O3 and pay the associated fees. Then, gather the necessary documentation, including passports, photographs, proof of the familial relationship (such as a birth certificate or a marriage certificate), and evidence of your O1 status.

You should then schedule a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate in your home country. You and your dependents need to attend the visa interview together, with all the required documents, and a consular officer will review the applications and supporting materials.

Once the O3 Visa applications are approved, your dependents will be issued their O3 Visas, allowing them to accompany you to the United States. Your O1 Visa must be approved before your dependents can apply for the O3 Visa.

Changing Employers

If you wish to change employers while on an O1 Visa, the new employer must file a new petition (new Form I-129) on your behalf. You can begin working for the new employer once the petition is approved. It’s crucial to maintain your legal status during the transition and ensure a seamless transfer of your visa.

Material Change in Terms and Conditions of Employment

If there are significant changes to your employment terms or conditions, such as changing from full time to part time employment, changes in job responsibilities, work location, or employer, you must notify USCIS.

How much does an O1 Visa cost?

The main costs are:

  • Form I-129 (Employer Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) filing fee (usually paid by the employer): $460
  • Premium processing (optional): $2,500
  • Consular processing (applying from outside the US) | DS-160 fee: $190 per person
  • Change of status (applying from inside the US) | I-539 form fee: $370 per dependent
  • Biometrics fee (if applicable): $85

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions for your O1 Visa application?

If you think the O1 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.

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 well-versed in immigration law 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 immigration law, we provide our clients with solid guidance. We have a team of immigration lawyers, and immigration advisers specialized in US immigration.
  • 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

What are the O-1 Visa requirements?

You may qualify for an O-1 work visa if you possess extraordinary ability or have a record of outstanding achievement in your field, as demonstrated, for example, by a major internationally recognized award (for example, a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award). You may also qualify if you meet at least three of the eight criteria outlined in this article).

Consultation with an appropriate peer group, labor organization and/or management organization regarding the nature of the proposed work and the beneficiary’s qualifications is mandatory before an O-1 petition can be approved. 

You must also have a job offer or engagement from a US employer who will act as your sponsor. 

How long is an O-1 Visa valid for?

An O-1 Visa is typically initially granted for a period of up to three years. The duration can vary based on the specific project or event. Extensions can be requested in one-year increments as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

How hard is it to get an O-1 Visa USA?

Obtaining an O-1 Visa can be challenging; it requires substantial evidence of the applicant’s extraordinary ability or achievement. The process of application involves providing extensive supporting documentation and proving the significance of your contributions in your field.

You must prove work of major significance in your sector by winning internationally recognized prizes, being present in major media outlets, having membership in associations in your field that require outstanding achievements of their members (as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field), writing scholarly articles of major significance, etc. For example, if you work in the motion picture industry, you would have to demonstrate your success through factors such as box office receipts, critical reviews and other published materials, and awards for excellence, such as an Academy Award. In another industry, this could include awards such as a Nobel Prize.

You must provide proof of having a distinguished reputation, evidenced by relevant documentation, in areas such as sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

Working with experienced immigration professionals can help you navigate the complexities and increase your chances of success.

Is an O-1 Visa for extraordinary ability better than a H-1B Visa?

The US O-1 Visa isn’t inherently better or worse than the H-1B Visa, so it’s not a case of making a direct comparison of O-1 vs H-1B. They serve different purposes and have different eligibility criteria.

The O-1 is for individuals with extraordinary ability, while the H-1B is for specialized workers in occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.

Another significant distinction is that the H-1B has a prevailing wage requirement, while the O-1 doesn’t. The choice between the two depends on your specific qualifications and circumstances.

What do US Citizenship and Immigration Services consider a high salary for an O-1 Visa?

There’s no minimum salary or fixed threshold for a high salary on an O-1 Visa. However, a salary that reflects your exceptional abilities and is significantly higher than average in your field can strengthen your case.

The idea is to prove that “a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, as compared to others in the field.” You need to show that your total compensation significantly exceeds the average for the same role in your field in your country. 

What are the disadvantages of an O-1 Visa?

Some potential disadvantages of the US O-1 Visa include the stringent eligibility requirements, the need for continuous evidence of the applicant’s extraordinary ability, and the limitations on self-employment.

Additionally, changing employers requires filing a new petition, and dependents cannot work unless they secure their own employment authorization.

Does an O-1 Visa for require a job offer?

Yes, an O-1 Visa requires a job offer or engagement from a US employer who will act as your sponsor. The employer must file a petition on your behalf with the USCIS, providing evidence of your extraordinary ability and the need for your services in a critical or essential capacity in the United States.

Is an O-1 Visa easier than an EB-1 Visa?

The O-1 and EB-1 (Employment-Based First Preference) Visa are different immigration categories with distinct requirements.

The EB-1 visa is an immigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors or researchers, winners of internationally recognized prizes, or multinational executives or managers.

Comparing the difficulty of obtaining these visas can depend on individual circumstances and qualifications.

How much does it cost to sponsor an O-1 Visa?

The cost of sponsoring an O-1 Visa includes USCIS filing fees, legal fees, and other associated expenses. The exact amount can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the services provided by immigration attorneys or professionals.

It’s advisable to consult with immigration experts to get an accurate estimate of the total visa cost. If you have any questions about this, please get in touch with one of our specialists.

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

With an O-1 Visa, you could obtain a Green Card (permanent residency) in the United States. While this visa itself doesn’t directly lead to a Green Card, there are pathways available from an O-1 to Green Card.

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.

What type of evidence is accepted for an O-1 Visa application?

The evidence required by the US Department of Homeland Security to prove extraordinary ability for an O-1 Visa depends on whether you are applying for an O-1A or an O-1B.

As an O-1A applicant, such as scientist or researcher, you’ll need to demonstrate authorship of scholarly articles in the field, as published in professional publications, major trade publications (such as major trade journals), other major media, or other published material.

In business, you must prove to have been employed in a critical or essential capacity at a company with a distinguished reputation.

As an O-1B applicant, such as an artist, or an individual working in motion pictures or the television industry, you will have to demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim or a record of major commercial successes. Startup founders may satisfy the requirements by raising venture capital funding or by joining an accelerator program like Y Combinator, 500 Startups, or Techstars. There are many different ways to provide reliable evidence for the visa.

How do major trade publications relate to the O-1 Visa?

Major trade publications are specialized periodicals that focus on a particular industry or profession. They can be used to support an O-1 Visa application by demonstrating expertise, showcasing contributions, and building credibility.

When selecting major trade publications that are seen as critically acclaimed successes, consider relevance to your field, reputation and circulation, impact, and recognition.

What is the standard for international acclaim in the O-1 visa category?

To demonstrate international acclaim for an O-1 visa, an individual must show that they have achieved a high level of recognition and distinction in their field on a global scale.

This can be evidenced through means such as awards (for example, a Nobel Prize or Academy Award), major newspapers, publications, publicity releases, critical reviews, or commercial success in international markets.

What evidence must I provide for the O1 Visa?

The petitioner must provide evidence demonstrating your extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, education, or athletics, or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture industry.