O1 Visa Approval Rate: What are the chances of getting approved?
If you are someone who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, the O1 Visa might be an option you are considering for traveling to and working in, the United States. An O1 visa is also an option for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. The most common question potential clients tend to have is about the O1 visa approval rating. As detailed below, the O1 Visa and its subcategories tend to have very high approval ratings.
Recent Approval Ratings
For the 3 most recent years, the O visa category had a 91.4% approval rating (2021), 89.7% (2020), and 90.8% for 2019. 2020 was the lowest fiscal year approval rate in the last 5 years, being the only year recently to fall below 90%. These approval ratings include all O visa category application types, including the O2 visa for individuals who accompany O1 artists or athletes as assistants in a specific event or performance, and the O3 visa for individuals who are the spouse or children of O1 and O2 visa holders.
What affects your chances of an O1 visa approval?
Even though the O1 visa has a fairly high approval rating, there are many reasons that you may get denied at either the USCIS stage or the Department of State stage. Below are a few issues that can come up at the USCIS stage:
- You don’t have a petitioner. The O1 visa cannot be self-petitioned. Not having a petitioner leads to a denial.
- Your contracts and itinerary aren’t detailed. USCIS will do a thorough review of your contracts and your itinerary. If you don’t provide enough information, such as lacking a specific salary on the contract or specific dates on your itinerary, USCIS will not be able to determine if the information you’ve provided is sufficient.
- You lack the requisite achievement. The O1 visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability. If you haven’t yet done much in your career, the O1 visa will not get approved. It is for people who have been working for a while and are at the top of their fields.
- Your achievements are not sustained. To get the O1 visa, you must show not only that you have the requisite achievements, but also that these achievements have been sustained over a long period of time. That is to say, if you just got famous last week, you do not have a high chance of approval.
- Insufficient or disorganized documentation. Even if you meet numbers 3 and 4 above, you can still get denied if you leave too much work to USCIS to determine if you meet the requirements. The evidence should be easy to understand and organized, so they are not searching to find if you qualify.
Once you get an approval of the Form I-129 at the USCIS stage, there is secondary review at the Department of State. Below are a few issues that can lead to a denial, even after the I-129 approval:
- No online presence. Wherever you may have your visa interview, the officer will likely look you up on the internet. If you do not have an online presence in this day and age, it will be difficult to satisfy the O1 visa extraordinary requirement.
- You have criminal or inadmissibility issues. Even if you meet all of the extraordinary ability requirements, you may still get denied if you have criminal or inadmissibility issues, such as fraud or overstaying a visa in the US.
- You can’t explain that you are extraordinary. If the officer asks you about the specific requirements, and you end up admitting that you are not extraordinary or you can’t explain how you meet the requirements in English, the immigration officer may deny your visa.
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My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States. If you have any questions about the O1 visa, or any other immigration-related questions, feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
President of Ashoori Law
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.