O1 Visa Processing Time in 2021: What You Need to Know
The O1 visa is a powerful option for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, athletics, or education. In addition, it is an option for entertainers and those with a history of achievement in the motion picture or television industry. O1 visa holders can live in the US and work in their field, and have their immediate family members live with them as well.
The O1 visa classification has a low number of applicants compared to other visa classifications. As such, O1 processing times are somewhat shorter compared to other temporary work visas. In mid-2021, O1 petitions were only taking 2 weeks to 3 months to process with USCIS. Applicants may also be subject to additional wait times if they require a consular interview after approval.
In this guide, we will go through the basics of the O1 visa and break down the processing time for the O1 visa step-by-step. For an even more detailed explanation of the O1 visa process, please see my article here.
If you have any questions about anything in this guide, please feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m very responsive to email and would be happy to answer your questions.
- What is the O1 Visa?
- How Do I Qualify for O1A?
- How Do I Qualify for O1B?
- Documents Needed to Apply for the O1 Visa
- Applying for the O1 Visa, and an Explanation of Processing Times
1. What is the O1 Visa?
The O1 visa is a temporary work visa reserved for individuals with extraordinary ability. While the O1 visa has very high standards to qualify for, it is an excellent option for individuals in the lead of their respective field. This includes individuals of extraordinary ability working in the sciences, arts, business, athletics, or education. It also includes individuals with a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.
There are two (2) primary categories of the O1 visa: O1A and O1B.
O1A is reserved for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, athletics, or education.
O1B is reserved for individuals in the entertainment industry, with a history of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. The individual must be recognized, nationally or internationally, for these achievements.
The O1 visa must be filed by a US employer or agent, allowing them to work in the endeavored field. The O1 visa is initially valid for a period of three (3) years and can be extended indefinitely in one (1) year increments.
2. How do I Qualify for O1A?
If you are a leading professional in your field, either in the sciences, arts, business, athletics, or education, you may be wondering how exactly to qualify for O1A.
A qualification that might automatically lead to an approval is the receipt of a major internationally recognized award. This would include an award such as a Nobel Prize. Applicants with such high achievements have little difficulty qualifying for the O1A visa.
Alternatively, O1A applicants must satisfy at least three (3) of the following criteria:
- You have received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field.
- You’ve had membership in associations within your field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field.
- There is published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about you, relating to your work in the field.
- You have participated on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in your field.
- You have made original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in your field.
- You have authored scholarly articles in your field, in professional journals, or other major media.
- You have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
- You have either commanded or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services.
In the event that the criteria listed above do not apply to your field, you must submit comparable evidence that demonstrates extraordinary ability in your field.
3. How Do I Qualify for O1B?
If you are a leading entertainer or professional, with a history of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, the O1B visa may be the classification for you.
Similar to the O1A, recipients of a major internationally recognized award in the motion picture or television industry, such as an Oscar, may be easily granted approval.
Alternatively, O1B applicants must satisfy at least three (3) of the following criteria:
- You have performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications contracts, or endorsements.
- You have achieved national or international recognition for achievements in your field, evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about you in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.
- You have performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
- You have a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications.
- You have received significant recognition for your achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in your field.
- You have commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for your services compared to others in your field.
In the event that the criteria listed above do not apply to your field, you must submit comparable evidence that demonstrates extraordinary achievement in your field.
4. Documents Needed to Apply for the O1 Visa
If you meet the evidentiary standards for extraordinary ability listed above, either for O1A or O1B, gathering the right supporting evidence for your application is crucial.
Evidence is very case specific, but a general list of necessary documents includes:
- Your resume or CV
- A copy of your passport and copies of the passports of your family members who are applying with you
- Evidence of your extraordinary ability, (in the form of awards, publications, etc.)
- Letters of recommendation from professional and experts in your field
- An advisory opinion from a peer group or similar organization that affirms extraordinary ability is needed for your proposed endeavor
- An offer or contract of employment from an employer or agent and/or an itinerary of the work you’ll be doing once in the United States
- A general overview of your work and the nature of its importance
5. Applying for the O1 Visa, and an Explanation of Processing Times
Now, turning to the focus of this article, we will be addressing the exact processing times and basic steps involved in securing an O1 visa.
As stated, current processing times for O1 petitions with USCIS range from about 2 weeks to 3 months.
The application process for an O1 visa involves submitting all required supporting evidence, along with the form I-129 and the I-129 O Supplement.
Additionally, premium processing can also be opted for at a cost of $2,500, which Is paid to USCIS. From there, USCIS will take action on your petition guaranteed within 15 calendar days.
If you are already in the United States, you will likely be doing a change of status. Most applicants outside the US will have to go through consular processing for their application. After receiving an approval from USCIS, the applicant will attend a consular interview. The exact time it may take to schedule your interview will vary depending on the consulate or Embassy in your country where you apply. It can range from a few weeks to a few months depending on the consulate’s backlog and availability. An experienced immigration attorney can help you through all steps of this process, including scheduling a consular interview.
After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of the basics of qualifying for the O1 visa and how long you should expect processing to take.
As the O1 visa process is highly complex, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to help you through this process. My team is experienced in these matters and would be happy to help you.
If you have any immediate questions, please feel free to email me at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I am very responsive to email and would be happy to answer your questions.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
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.