What You Need to Know About the O-1 Visa

What You Need to Know About the O-1 Visa
What You Need to Know About the O-1 Visa


The O-1 visa is designed for exceptionally talented individuals in fields like science, art, education, business, athletics, or the entertainment industry.

The O-1 visa surpasses the H-1B with indefinite yearly renewals, the ability to work for various employers or independently, and no lottery or strict filing deadlines.

What is an O-1 Visa?

Types of O-1 Visa

  • O-1A: This is for individuals with extraordinary achievements in science, business, education, or athletics. Examples include successful entrepreneurs, distinguished scientists, and top athletes.
  • O-1B: This subcategory is for those with exceptional talent in the arts or significant accomplishments in the film or television industry, including famous actors, celebrated directors, and other recognized artists.

O-1 Visa Requirements

To get an O-1 visa, show top skills via awards, key roles, elite memberships, or major accomplishments.

Requirements vary:

  • Business and Entrepreneurship (O-1A): Proofs include leading a startup to major funding, notable business growth, significant publications, or leadership roles in renowned companies. Entrepreneurs can use their own companies as sponsors, showing evidence of non-speculative work and a solid business plan.
  • Science, Education, and Athletics (O-1A): Criteria include prestigious awards, authorship of significant research, contributions to the advancement of the field, membership in elite organizations, and documentation of exceptional ability and contributions.
  • Arts, Motion Picture, Television (O-1B): Applicants should provide evidence of major awards, lead roles in productions with high reputations, commercial success, and significant recognition from critics or the industry.

For those whose achievements do not fit the above criteria, alternative evidence showing comparable levels of achievement may be submitted.

O-1 Visa Processing Time

As of February 2024, processing times vary by service center.

  • The California Service Center processes applications in about 2 to 3 months
  • The Vermont Service Center offers faster processing at around five weeks

Applicants in a hurry can opt for Premium Processing for a response within 15 calendar days.

Validity and Extensions

Previously valid for three years, the O-1 visa now allows unlimited one-year extensions, dependent on the holder’s continued eligibility.


Does the O-1 visa lead to a green card?

Although the O1 visa itself does not lead directly to a green card, it permits “dual intent,” allowing holders to pursue permanent residency while on an O1 visa.

What is the cost of O-1?

The filing fee for the I-129 petition is $1055, with reduced rates for smaller employers and nonprofits.

If required to leave the U.S. early, the petitioner might need to cover travel expenses.

How to Apply for an O-1 Visa

Applications involve filing Form I-129 with a U.S. employer or agent, along with necessary documents and evidence of extraordinary ability.

An advisory letter from a peer organization or expert is generally required, though exceptions exist.

Required Documents for O-1 Visa

Documentation includes:

  1. an advisory letter
  2. proof of an employer-employee relationship
  3. detailed evidence of the beneficiary’s extraordinary ability and depending on the visa subcategory
  4. specific evidence relevant to the applicant’s field of expertise.

Alternative or “comparable” evidence may be used under certain conditions.

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