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What is the O-1 visa application process? How long does it take to get an O-1 visa?

By June 11, 2020May 20th, 2021Extraordinary Ability, Immigration
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O-1 visa is a great visa for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.

Should I hire a lawyer for the O-1 visa petition?

Yes. Like most Immigration law, the O-1 visa regulations are complicated and you must demonstrate to immigration officials that you have met all of the legal elements.  In addition, the documentation requirements for an O-1 Visa are quite extensive and a legal brief must be written linking all of the elements of the Statute to your case.

  1. Find a U.S. employer or agent who will petition you for an O-1 visa

The first step is to find a U.S. employer or an Agent that will sponsor you for an O-1 visa. Please note that if you own a legal entity in the U.S, the entity can also file an O-1 petition on your behalf (please see more about this topic when you click here).

  1. Gather all supporting documents

O-1 visa is a very document intensive process as you will have to prove to USCIS that you received a major, internationally recognized award or meet at least 3 of the following requirements.

In some cases, you will also have to submit an itinerary and/or your portfolio. If you are applying for an O-1B visa, you should obtain expert opinion letters from certain key individuals.

  1. Reach out to a U.S. peer group, labor organization, or management organization

The next step would be to reach out to a U.S. peer group, labor organization, or management organization to meet the O-1 visa consultation requirement. You will have to submit the Advisory Opinion with your O-1 petition.

  1. Decide if you will do a change of status/extension of status petition with USCIS or if you will file a Consular processing

If you are currently in the U.S., you could file a Change of status petition with USCIS.

If you are currently in the U.S. on an O-1 status, you could file an extension of status petition with USCIS or you could file a renewal petition for 3 years. Please see our blog post on this when you click here.

If you are currently outside the U.S., you will have to file the O-1 petition as a Consular Processing and after the petition is approved by USCIS, you will have to go to a Consulate to get your O-1 visa stamp.

It usually takes couple weeks/months to adjudicate the petition, but you can request Premium Processing.

  1. Complete the USCIS forms

You will have to complete form I-129 and pay the government fee (currently $460). You can also file a Premium Processing Request – this means that USCIS will issue a decision (approval, denial, Request for Evidence, or Notice of Intent to deny) within 15 calendar days.  You should always check if the Premium Processing is available for an O-1 visa as USCIS sometimes suspends Premium processing service for certain visa categories.

  1. Submit the O-1 petition to USCIS and wait for the decision

If you file a change of status petition, then you can stay in the U.S. while the change of status petition is pending but you cannot start working for the O-1 petitioner until your O-1 visa petition is approved.

If you filed an extension of status petition and it was filed before your O-1 visa expires, you will get an automatic 240 day employment extension.

If you filed the petition as a Consular Processing, you can only apply for an O-1 visa at a Consulate after USCIS approved the petition. You can then enter the U.S. on the O-1 visa and start working for the petitioner.

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