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O-1 Visa FAQ's

Table of Contents

What Is an O-1 Visa?

The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in one of the following three categories to enter into the U.S. and engage in official activity:

  • Motion picture or TV industries
  • Arts
  • Sciences, education, business, and athletics

What Privileges Do I Enjoy On O-1 Visas?

  • Receive your visa quickly
  • Travel freely in and out of the U.S. for the term of the visa
  • Apply for O-2 visas for accompanying essential support personnel
  • Apply for O-3 visas for accompanying dependents
  • Not be required to prove that you intend to return to your home country residence when your business in the U.S. is completed
  • Apply for permanent residence while in O status

What Are The Limitations Of O-1 Visa?

  • Take up employment for the position, event, or activity for which the USCIS granted approval
  • Take up employment with multiple employers only if each employer files a separate Form I-129
  • Commence employment on the date authorized by the USCIS and must terminate the employment no later than the date authorized

How Long Can I Stay In The U.S. On O-1 Work Visa?

You may stay in the U.S. on O-1 visa for the period of time necessary to complete the event or activity, which should not exceed an initial period of three years.

Can I Extend My Stay On O-1 Visa?

Yes, you may apply for O-1 visa extension of stay. Extensions in one year increments plus an additional 10 days to get your personal affairs in order may be granted as long as you continue in the same position or activity for which you were originally granted O-1 status.

Can I Study On O-1 Work Visa?

Yes, you may engage in part-time study while on O status.

Are There Any Travel Restrictions On O-1 Visa?

No, the Department of State does not impose any restrictions on the number of times you may travel in and out of the U.S.

How Can I Obtain An O-1 Visa?

Your prospective employer or agent must first receive an approved O petition with the USCIS, after which you may apply for an O-1 visa either in your home country or a third country.

Is There A Way To Speed Up The O-1 Visa Application Process?

Yes, the USCIS has instituted a program called Premium Processing. You may have your O1 or P1 petition adjudicated within 15 calendar days by applying for premium processing. For an additional fee of US $1,225 paid directly to the USCIS, they guarantee a prompt decision on your O1 or P1 petition. Specifically, USCIS guarantees 15 calendar day processing to those petitioners or applicants who choose to use this service -OR-USCIS will refund the Premium Processing Service fee. If the fee is refunded, the relating case will continue to receive expedited processing.

What Is The Advisory Opinion Required For O-1 Petition?

Prior to filing the O-1 petition with the USCIS, you must obtain an advisory opinion from an appropriate consulting entity, such as a peer group, labor organization, or management organization. The advisory opinion is to state whether you qualify as an alien of extraordinary ability and whether such extraordinary abilities are required for the activities to be undertaken by you.

What Are The Documents Required With The O-1 Petition?

Petitions for O-1 foreign nationals must be accompanied by:

  • Evidence specified in the particular section for the classification
  • Copies of any written contracts between the employer and yourself. If there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which you will be employed
  • Explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities
  • Written advisory opinion(s) from the appropriate consulting entity or entities

What Evidence Must I Provide As O-1 Alien Of Extraordinary Ability In The Field Of Science, Education, Business, Or Athletics?

You must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise by providing evidence of either: Receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, or

At least three of the following:

  • Documentation of receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Documentation of membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought. The membership must require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about your work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation
  • Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media
  • Evidence that you have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • Evidence that you have either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

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What Evidence Must I Provide As O-1 Alien Of Extraordinary Ability In The Arts?

You must be recognized as being prominent in your field of endeavor by providing either:

Evidence that you have been nominated for, or have been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award, or

Evidence that 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
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • 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
  • Records of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as 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
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which you are engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of your achievements
  • Commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

What Evidence Must I Provide As O-1 Alien Of Extraordinary Ability In The Motion Picture Or Television Industry?

You must be recognized as being prominent in your field of endeavor by providing:

Evidence that you have been nominated for, or has been the recipient of, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award or

Evidence that 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;
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • 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;
  • Records of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as 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
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements or
  • Commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

Which Documents Are Valid As Supporting Documents For The O-1 Petition?

The following types of documents can be submitted in support of an O petition. These are not exclusive and other forms of evidence may be used:

  • Degree certificates and evaluation reports
  • Publications, presentations, abstracts, invitations to conferences as well as citations of such publications
  • Comments on your work by others in your field
  • Requests for reprints of your publications
  • Evidence of awards or honors received
  • Evidence of membership in professional associations
  • Documents substantiating participation, either individually or on a panel, as the judge of the work of others in the field
  • Critical reviews, advertisements, press releases, publications contracts, or endorsements;
  • Box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Recommendation letters from experts in your chosen field explaining your standing as an alien of extraordinary ability

On What Grounds Can My O-1 Petition Be Revoked?

Your O-1 petition can be revoked if the:

  • Capacity in which you were originally employed as mentioned in the petition has changed
  • Statement of facts contained in the petition was not true and correct
  • Terms or conditions of the approved petition are violated
  • Approval of the petition involved gross error

Can I Apply For Change Of Status From Another Nonimmigrant Status To O-1?

Yes, you may change status to O-1 when in the U.S. if you qualify as an O-1 alien. This option is not available if you entered the U.S. without inspection or overstayed your authorized term of admission under the present status. Further, you may not change status in the U.S. if you are subject to the J-1 two-year foreign residency requirement and must obtain an O-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas after the O-1 petition is approved.

Can I Apply For Change Of Status From J-1 To O-1?

Yes, you may change from J-1 to O-1 in the U.S. if you did not enter for graduate medical training, or if you entered in another J category and are either not subject to the two year home residency requirement or have received a waiver. 

If you are subject to Section 212(e) and have not received a waiver, or entered the U.S. for graduate medical training your employer can still submit a O-1 petition on your behalf. Once the petition is approved you must apply for the O-1 visa outside the U.S. and can enter the U.S. immediately without receiving a waiver or completing the 2 year home residency requirement.

On What Visa Can I Bring My Dependents To The U.S. While On O-1 Visa?

Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may apply for O-3 visa status in order to accompany you to the U.S.

Can Dependents Of O-1 Visa Holders Work?

No, dependents on O-3 status may not work.

What Is The Difference Between O-1 And Eb-1(A)?

The O-1 category applies to foreign nationals seeking a nonimmigrant status, while the EB-1(A) category is for foreign nationals seeking permanent immigrant status. A person seeking O-1 status must have an employer in the U.S., while a person seeking permanent residence in the EB-1(A) category does not need a U.S. employer.

Can I Work For More Than One Employer On O-1 Visa?

Yes, if you work for more than one employer at the same time, however, each employer must file a separate petition with the USCIS.

Can I Change Employers On O-1 Work Visa?

Yes, you may change employers on O-1 visa, however, a new petition must be filed by the new employer.

What Is The Employer’s Liability If My Employment Is Terminated While On O-1 Visa?

If the employment is terminated, the employer is liable to pay reasonable cost of return transportation to your last place of residence prior to your entry into the U.S.

Us Tax Applicable To O-1 Visa Holders

As a general rule, anyone performing services in the U.S. – including performing artists – must pay U.S. taxes on their U.S. income.  The US-Canada Tax Treaty, however, has special provisions dealing with artists. In particular, Article XVI provides artists with exemptions from taxation under certain circumstances. 

In addition, to ensure that foreign artists pay their U.S. taxes, the IRS requires anyone in the U.S. who is paying for services performed by a foreign artist to withhold 30% taxes on all U.S. income of that foreign artist.

How Can You Help With O-1 Visa Holders

As an O-1 visa holder, we understand the US and Canadian tax implications you face and regularly assist O-1 visa holders with the following tax issues:

  1. Assessing your US and Canada tax residency situation
  2. Claiming an exemption from US tax under the Canada-US tax treaty
  3. Cross border tax and transition planning
  4. Filing the correct tax returns in both countries based on your particular cross borer tax situation
  5. Determining your US Social Security tax and Canadian CPP obligations
  6. Claiming an exemption from the 30% US withholding tax
  7. Obtaining US tax ID numbers for O-3 visa holders that can be claimed as dependents on a US tax return

You may qualify to file a US income tax return that may reduce the amount of US tax owed by way of the tax treaty or your physical presence in the US.

As cross border tax experts, we will assist you to determine if you qualify for a tax set-off under the provisions of the Canada-US Tax Treaty and to file all required IRS and individual state forms and tax returns to ensure that you pay the lowest tax possible.

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