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O1 Visa for entrepreneurs

Our O1 visa lawyer is dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs, educators, scientists, athletes, and other persons of “extraordinary ability” and US employers wishing to sponsor foreign talent with their O1 visa needs. Our O1 visa lawyer assists clients from all 50 states and worldwide.

Our O1 visa attorney, Victoria Kuzmina, has handled many O1 visa matters in various industries. For example, Mr. Kuzmina has worked with CEOs, CTOs, CFOs, CMOs, engineers, data security specialists, musicians, professional athletes, and coaches, among many others.

Every case has its own facts and circumstances, requiring a thorough analysis and game plan. We understand that the application process can be stressful and complicated. Our job is to provide you with guidance and representation during this complex process. By successfully handling a wide range of O1 cases, our O1 visa lawyer, Victoria Kuzmina, is well-equipped to assist you with your O1 visa application. Contact our office to schedule your consultation with our O1 visa attorney today to see how we can help you.

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OUR O-1 VISA COMMITMENT TO YOU:

  • Strong O-1 visa lawyer experience and knowledge
  • High O-1 visa success rate
  • 100% commitment to processing your O-1 visa expeditiously
  • We prioritize our clients – this means you are always able to speak to your lawyer
  • Transparent fees. Our O-1 visa attorney fees are transparent and clearly explain what your anticipated cost will be
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WORKING WITH OUR O-1 VISA LAWYER:

Getting an O1 visa application approved is not always an easy task. Evidence of the applicant’s extraordinary ability in their field must be well-documented. A typical O1 visa application and supporting documentation can easily consist of 800+ pages. Providing USCIS with satisfactory evidence for each possible O1 qualification in an organized and concise manner is vital to the O1 application and its success.

We take the time to understand your goals, concerns, and answer your questions. Our objective is to facilitate the O-1 visa application preparation expeditiously, effortlessly, and cost-effectively.

  • We will create a strategy for your short-term and long-term immigration goals,
  • We will explain your options and procedures surrounding your case,
  • We will explain what documents you need to collect,
  • We will analyze your information to ensure you can meet the O-1 visa classification requirements,
  • If necessary, we will make suggestions to strengthen your O-1 visa qualifications,
  • We will carefully prepare the O-1 visa application and submit it to the immigration agency to successfully obtain your O-1 visa, O-1 extension, or O-1 change of status,
  • We will communicate with the relevant immigration agency while your case is pending,
  • We will keep you up to date until we obtain the results of your O-1 visa application.
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ABOUT THE O-1 VISA GENERALLY:

To be considered a person of extraordinary ability, you must have sustained national or international acclaim in your field. In addition, the individual must be coming to the US to work or perform in the area of their extraordinary achievement.

The O1 visa allows you to come to the US to work at a particular event, project, or job for the length of time it is necessary to complete the said job. The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa and is granted for a maximum of 3 years, with unlimited extensions in one-year increments.

The O-1 visa is divided into two categories: O-1A and O-1B. The O-1A visa refers to persons who have “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.” The O-1B visas are for persons in motion picture or TV production who have “a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.” To help you determine whether you qualify for an O-1 visa and learn more about the O1 visa application process, our O-1 visa attorney is available for a consultation.

KEY BENEFITS OF AN O-1 VISA:

  • O-1 visas are not limited to an annual numerical limit, unlike H-1B visas,
  • There is no prevailing wage issue. This can be a great advantage to a startup company that does not have a revenue stream yet,
  • No minimum degree is required like with H-1B visas,
  • No specific citizenship is required like with E-2 visas,
  • No specific investment amount is required,
  • The O-1 visa allows dual intent. This means that the applicant is not required to keep their foreign residency and is not precluded from applying for permanent residency,
  • Individuals who qualify for an O visa may also be eligible for permanent residency through an EB-1 extraordinary ability green card or EB-2 National Interest Waiver. 
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What is O1 Visa?

The O1 visa is a temporary work visa for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or those who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. In addition, O1 visa applicants must have been recognized nationally or internationally for their accomplishments in the field. O1 visa is also known as an extraordinary ability visa.

Requirements

The O1 visa is divided into two O1 categories: O-1A visa and O-1B visa.

The O1A visa refers to persons with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. O1A visa category does not include the arts, motion pictures, or television industry.

The O1B visa category refers to persons with extraordinary abilities in the arts or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture or television industry.

To qualify for an O1A visa in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, the O1 visa applicant must demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in their field. “Extraordinary ability” means the applicant must demonstrate a level of expertise indicating that they are one of the small percentages who have risen to the top of their field.

Furthermore, to qualify for an O1A visa, in absence of a one-time achievement for a major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, , the applicant must satisfy at least 3 of the O1A criteria discussed below:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Membership in associations that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their fields;
  • Published material about the person in professional or major trade publications or other major media relating to the person’s work;
  • Judging the work of others;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
  • The person has commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services compared to others in the field;
  • Comparable evidence to establish the person’s eligibility if the standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation.

O1B Visa

To qualify for an O1B visa in the arts, the O1B visa applicant must demonstrate distinction in the field of arts. “Distinction” means that the applicant achieved a high level of accomplishment in the arts, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above ordinarily encountered. In addition, the artist must show they are prominent in their field. While the O1B applicant must establish “distinction in the field, it is a lower standard than for those in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.

Eligibility

To satisfy the O1 visa eligibility, the individual must exhibit outstanding achievements in the field and have gained and maintained national or international recognition. A globally-renowned award may attest to this. For example, consider an Oscar or an Olympic medal. The condition can alternatively be met by demonstrating at least three applicable O1 criteria.

How to apply for O1 visa

Applying for an O1 visa involves multiple application steps. First, the sponsoring employer must prepare and file an I-129 petition with USCIS. This O1 application step is required regardless of whether the applicant is located in the US or abroad.

The O1 application includes preparing applicable USCIS forms, including Form I-129, an O1 support letter that explains how the O1 applicant qualifies for the O1 visa classification, and various supporting documentation of the applicant’s achievements.

Suppose the O1 applicant is located in the US in another valid status. In that case, the O1 petitioner may request USCIS to change the O1 applicant’s status from one lawful non-immigrant status to O1 status. While the approval of this petition will allow the applicant to remain in the US during the validity period of the approved I-129 petition, the applicant will need to apply for an O1 visa stamp at a consulate abroad once they travel internationally before re-entering the US.

If the O1 applicant needs to apply for an O1 visa at a consulate abroad, then the O1 visa application will be done through Form DS-160, followed by an interview at a consulate.

O1 visa timeline

When applying for an O1 visa, you must consider the time it takes to prepare the O1 petition itself and the time it takes USCIS to adjudicate your O1 petition. In addition, if you need to obtain an O1 visa stamp at a consulate, you need to calculate that additional time.

Because an O1 application is a complex process that involves collecting evidence of your achievements, obtaining letters of recommendation, preparing USCIS forms, drafting an O1 petition support letter, among other important preparatory work, you should dedicate at least two to three months to this step.

Once your US employer submits the O1 application to USCIS, the processing timeline will depend on whether the employer requests regular processing or premium processing of your O1 petition. With regular processing, USCIS is likely to take multiple months to review and decide on the O1 application.

However, if a quicker decision is needed, the employer may request premium processing from USCIS by filing Form I-907. The additional government fee for premium processing is $2,500. However, USCIS guarantees to decide within 15 calendar days of receiving the O1 application.

Therefore, depending on whether the US employer requested regular processing or premium processing from USCIS, the O1 visa process can take 3 to 6+ months.

Furthermore, if you need to apply for an O1 visa stamp before entering the US, depending on the consulate’s availability of the visa appointment, to get an O1 visa may take from a few days to multiple months.

Change of employer

O1 work visa is employer specific.

Suppose O1 employment is terminated, or the applicant wants to change employers. In that case, the new employer must submit an O1 petition with a request to change O1 employers. Because O1 visa is employer-specific, the previously-approved O1 application cannot be automatically transferred to a new employer.

In other words, the O1 visa is not transferable to a new employer until the new employer files a new O1 petition and USCIS approves it.

O1 Visa for Freelancers

The O1 visa is the most flexible work visa when it comes to working in a capacity that can be described as “freelance.” However, even an O1 visa does not allow freelance work. This means that O1 visa does not allow a foreign national to accept work from any employer with no strings attached or come to the US and start looking for work after.

While the O1 visa requires specific projects or employment lined up, O1 applicants can accept multiple projects or have multiple employers through an agent. By using an agent as an intermediary, O1 applicants can avoid a standard employment scenario and instead have multiple concurrent employers or projects. This type of scenario typically works well for athletes, entertainers, actors, artists, etc.

Restrictions

As an O1 visa holder, your employment is restricted to the employer, activities, or events for which your visa was granted. Therefore, the O1 visa holder cannot engage in activities outside the scope of employment terms or outside the itineraries submitted to USCIS as part of your visa application. Furthermore, your employment must commence  on the date authorized by the USCIS.

Termination of employment

O1 status is employment-based. Thus, your O1 status immediately ends when the employment is terminated.

Grace Period

You may be able to qualify for a 60-day grace period. For example, suppose your employment got terminated before the expiration of your O1 status. In that case, you may have up to 60 days to apply for a new O1 petition or change your status to another category. You would be able to use the entire 60 days only if you had at least 60 days remaining in your O1 status, as indicated by your I-94 record. If you have less than 60 days left, then the grace period will expire when your status expires.

Extension procedure

Extending an O1 visa status requires filing a new I-129 petition and supporting documents with USCIS. Some of those documents include:

  • a new Form I-129, Form I-907 if you need premium processing, and an O1 petition support letter that demonstrates why you need to stay in the United States longer
  • copies of employment contracts, itineraries, etc.
  • Proof that you maintained your O1 nonimmigrant status, such as pay stubs, employment confirmation letter, and Form I-94

Approval rate

Annually, USCIS approves O1 visa applications at around an 80 to 95 percent rate. However, the approval rates can vary on various factors, including which service center processes the application. Please note that typically you cannot choose a processing center as the application must be submitted to the processing center that has jurisdiction over the matter.

Salary requirements

There is no wage requirement for O1 visas. Unlike H1B visas, which have a prevailing wage requirement, O1 visas are not subject to the same requirement. However, the salary that is being offered to the O1 applicant should be suitable for the position.

O1 dependent visa

Spouses and children of O1 principal applicants can apply for O3 visas.

Spouses and children of O1 visa holders can live in the United States in the O3 visa status for as long as the O1 visa holder remains in a valid O1 status.

O3 visa holders can live in the US, travel, as well as study in the US.

Dual intent

O1 visa is a dual intent visa.

A dual intent visa means that a foreign national is allowed to have an intent to immigrate to the United States at the time they apply for a temporary nonimmigrant visa.

Because the O1 visa category allows for concurrent nonimmigrant and immigrant intent, the foreign national may apply for green card while in the U.S. in O1 nonimmigrant status. The green card application procedure is called “adjustment of status.”

O1 visa to green card

O1 visa does not automatically lead to a green card. However, the O1 visa holder may have various green card options, including EB-1A extraordinary ability, EB-2 National Interest Waiver, EB-2 or EB-3 PERM sponsorship through a US employer, among other possibilities.

The EB1A “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” Green Card

The requirements for EB1A green card are similar to the requirements for an O1 visa. However, the EB1A qualifications are more stringent compared to the O1 qualifications. Because an O1 visa applicant qualified for the O1 visa does not automatically mean that they will qualify for the EB1A green card category.

On the plus side, the EB1A category is typically not backlogged, allowing you to apply for a green card immediately upon EB1A petition approval. Furthermore, EB1A allows self-petitioning. This means that the qualifying EB1A applicant can apply themselves without a US employer or a US job offer.

The EB2 NIW Green Card

The EB-2 National Interest Waiver green card (EB2 NIW) is for persons of exceptional ability or professionals holding advanced degrees who can demonstrate that their proposed endeavor is in the US national interest and that they are well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

Just like EB1A green card, EB2 NIW is typically not backlogged and allows self-petitioning.

O1 visa to green card processing time

The time it takes to apply from O1 visa to green card is largely based on the category of the green card the foreign national qualifies for. Some categories, such as EB1A (and soon EB2 NIW) qualify for premium processing. This can significantly expedite the application process, resulting in an approximate 12-20+ months timeline from O1 to green card.

On the other hand, if premium processing is not an option, or a certain category is backlogged or requires an extended processing procedure (such as EB2 PERM or EB3 PERM), then this can delay the green card processing time drastically.

The road to a green card can vary significantly for each person. If you are interested in learning about your options for switching your O1 to a green card one day, then talking to an experienced employment-based immigration attorney can be beneficial. An immigration attorney can evaluate your options and assist you with creating a plan for achieving your goal of US permanent residence.

How much does an O1 visa cost

O1 visa cost will typically include three types of fees: attorneys fees, administrative fees, and government filing fees.

O1 visa lawyer cost for preparing and filing an I-129 petition can range from $7,000 to $8,000, depending on complexity of the case. Attorney’s fee at our law office typically covers the following services:

  • Direction and guidance in gathering required documentation
  • Consultations with the Client and legal advice regarding each step in the process
  • Review of the documentation provided by the Client
  • Assistance with drafting recommendation letters
  • Preparation of the USCIS forms
  • Preparation of the Legal Memorandum, which explains your O1 qualifications
  • Submission of inquiries to USCIS to check the status of the case

O1 visa application will also include various government flings fees, such as:

  • $460 – O1 I-129 petition government filing fee
  • $2,500 – An optional premium processing filing fee
  • $190 – O visa application fee at a consulate abroad for each applicant

O1 recommendation letter sample

O1 applicants can rely on strong recommendations letters to highlight their O1 qualifications and help establish that they reached a high level of success in their respective fields.

The letter should be written with specificity explaining O1 applicant’s exceptional achievements and helping the USCIS adjudicator understand the importance of the applicant’s work.

While there are no specific requirements for writing recommendation letters, certain guidelines should be kept in mind when drafting a solid recommendation letter. For example, the letter should be from experts in the field of endeavor who know the applicant and can confirm, based on their personal or professional knowledge, the O1 applicant’s outstanding achievements.

Furthermore, the O1 recommendation letters should highlight the applicant’s O1 qualifications and exceptional achievements. For example, the letter can explain original or ground-breaking work leading to impact in their field or explain complex research or scientific work so that a regular person can understand it. In addition, the letter can explain international or national recognition of the applicant’s work through prestigious awards; critical role in founding or co-founding a company that reached significant national or international success; the applicant’s vital work at the company leading substantial investments, and so on.

FAQ

How to get O1 visa?
To get an O1 visa, you need a US employer who will sponsor you for the O1 visa. However, O1 visa is a great option for startup founders and entrepreneurs, as startup founders can apply for the O1 visa through their own company.
Does O1 visa need sponsorship?
O1 visa requires an employer-employee relationship and does not permit self-sponsorship. Therefore, the O1 visa needs sponsorship, and the O1 employer acts as the O1 petitioner. An O1 visa sponsor can be a US employer or a US agent, with some other combinations. The O1 visa employer should have some relation to your field of endeavor. This means that you are coming to work in your area of extraordinary achievements. However, the job itself does not have to require extradentary achievements. A great benefit of O1 visa sponsorship is that the company the applicant founded or co-founded can sponsor them for the O1 visa.
How long is the validity of an O1 visa?
Initially, the duration of the O1 visa is valid for up to three years. However, in certain situations, the visa will be valid only for the length of a specific event, production, or project. After that, the O1 visa extensions are offered in one-year increments, with no restriction on the number of extensions granted. To qualify for an extension, the O1 visa applicant must demonstrate that they will remain in the same position or activity.
Can an O1 visa holder's spouse work?
The only limitation on O3 visa holders is that they are not allowed to work in the United States.
Is O1 visa better than H1b?
O1 visa has certain benefits over H1B visa: • Unlike H1B visas, O1 visas are not limited by an annual numerical limit. This means that O1 visa applicants do not need to play in a lottery because visa numbers will always be available. • O1 visa does not have a specific prevailing wage requirement compared to H1B visa. This can be a great advantage for startup companies that don't have a strong revenue stream yet. • O1 visa also does not require a minimum degree or a specialty occupation. Other benefits of O1 visas include: • O1 visa does not require specific citizenship or investment amount, unlike E2 visas. • O1 visa allows dual intent. This means that the O1 applicant is not required to keep their foreign residency and is not precluded from applying for permanent residency.

CONSULT OUR O-1 VISA LAWYER

Our immigration law practice focuses on O1 visas for entrepreneurs, startup founders and executives, exceptional professionals in science, business, and education fields, as well as professional athletes. Victoria Kuzmina has dedicated the past seven years of her legal practice to excellence in business-based immigration. When you work with our law office, you will know you are in the hands of a highly experienced legal team ready to work hard for you.

Individuals who are deemed to have extraordinary abilities in business, education, sciences, arts, and sports fields may be eligible for an O-1 visa.

If you believe you qualify for an O-1 visa, have questions about the process, or have any other O-1 visa needs, please schedule your initial consultation with our experienced O-1 visa immigration attorney.

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