September 14, 2022

O1 Visa Requirements

What is an O-1 Visa?

As people leave one country for another on their career paths, work-specific visas are usually a part of the process. If a company sponsors an employee to relocate, the process can be a bit simpler. For those who want to live in another country on their own accord, things can get more complicated. Some nations will not allow a person residency unless they are O-1 visa holders.

An O-1 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant residency issued to those with extraordinary abilities. They are at the elite levels of their professions with stellar resumes and credentials. Needless to say, obtaining one of these statuses is a difficult feat.

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Who qualifies for an O-1 Visa?

First and foremost, it is important to note that one cannot self-petition for an O-1 visa. To obtain this residency, one must be sponsored by an employer or agent of employment. The classification of this visa is separated into two different groups.


This group applies to those with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. While a Nobel prize or Olympic medal will fast-track your application, many applicants do not have these qualifications. The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) have specific criteria on what achievements are required to qualify for an O-1A visa. An applicant must meet at least three of these specified conditions to qualify for the visa.


This classification is for extraordinary abilities in the arts. Part of the consideration is “distinction”, such as winning an Emmy or Academy Award. For those who do not have these honors, there is a separate list of criteria that details necessary achievements to qualify for an O-1B visa. If one does not meet at least three of the specified conditions, they are allowed to submit comparable evidence of eligibility. 

How long is an O-1 visa good for?

man writing on a paper

O-1 visas are granted for the length of time an event will take or up to three years. Unlimited extensions of one-year increments are available to these visa holders. To apply for an extension, one must file a Form I-129, a copy of Form I-94 (arrival & departure record), and a statement explaining the request for an extension. If you have a spouse and children with you, they will need to file a Form I-539 for an extension.

Is an O-1 visa a permanent resident?

An O-1 visa is for temporary, nonimmigrant residency. If one wishes to become a permanent resident of the country they are working in, this entails a different application process. The O-1 is a dual intent visa, meaning upon application, a person might have the intention of becoming a permanent resident. The temporary visa permits people to begin this path by establishing a work history and residency. O-1 holders usually petition for an EB1A visa. The qualifying criteria is very similar and this is a common method to go from non-immigrant to immigrant status. 

How much does an O-1 visa cost?

The cost of applying for an O-1 visa is $650. Form I-129, petition for a nonimmigrant worker, has a fee of $460. The DS-160, the online nonimmigrant visa application, is $190. If you seek the services of an immigration attorney, their legal fees will be added to the cost.

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Is O-1 better than H1B?

These two visas have similar characteristics, but an O-1 visa is based on extraordinary abilities and does not require a degree. An H1B is another type of employment visa that does require at least a bachelor’s degree or non-U.S. equivalent. A person does not need to demonstrate extraordinary abilities, but they must have highly specialized knowledge, training, and education. There is an exception for fashion models seeking an H1B3 visa. They are not required to have a degree but must have distinguished in the industry. The project itself must demonstrate it requires a prominent model. While the visas are similar, the criteria to be awarded an O-1 visa is much higher than an H1B. Completing a bachelor’s degree is a bit more feasible for most people than winning an Oscar, Pulitzer, or Olympic medal.

Can I apply for a Green Card while on an O-1 visa?

A close up of a man in a white shirt

Absolutely! In fact, many people intend to apply for a green card while they are on an O-1 visa. As previously mentioned, the O-1 is a dual intent visa, meaning people can apply for one while intending to seek permanent residency. Some even view the O-1 as their first step to getting a green card. It does make the process of going from a temporary status to immigration much simpler.

Related Link: What are the Requirements for Adjustment of Status? 

How hard is it to get an O-1 visa?

It is very difficult to obtain an O-1 visa due to the high qualifying standards. If you are not in the upper echelons of your industry, chances are you will not qualify for this status. Those sponsored and who meet the demanding criteria for an O-1 visa are among the top authority figures in their industry. This visa is granted to those who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in their field, in other words, have achieved par excellence. These employees are generally the exception rather than the norm. For those who do meet the qualifications, the approval rate for O-1 visas is high, ranging anywhere from 80%-95%.

What are the benefits of an O-1 visa?

There are numerous benefits to an O-1 visa. First, no college degree is required. There is no limit on how many extension requests can be filed, a petitioner does not have to file a Labor Condition Application, and there is no wage requirement to be met.

A Pathway to New Opportunities

An O-1 visa opens up a world of new opportunities to those who are granted one. Highly accomplished individuals can get a taste of a new culture or leave a difficult setting for a more promising one. People with extraordinary abilities might be living in less than extraordinary conditions. Being granted an O-1 visa could be their answer to a better life and the chance to further excel in their areas of expertise.

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