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O-1 Visa

What is the O-1 visa?

The O-1 visa can be seen as the temporary version of the EB-1A visa, with similar requirements (sometimes less stringent) and a faster processing time. Clients will still need to apply for EB-1A or other permanent worker visas if they want to eventually apply for a green card. Also, clients will need an employer sponsor.

Comparison to Other Common U.S. Visa Types

Other Permanent Employment Based (EB) visas: 

  • EB-2: Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability - similar to EB-1A but requires an employer to sponsor the application whereas EB-1A does not

  • EB-3: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers - similar to EB-2 and also requires employer sponsorship, but has less stringent qualification requirements

  • EB-4: Special immigrants (including religious workers, certain international broadcasters, and other categories) - niche occupations that do not apply for most people

  • EB-5: investment based visa, requires monetary investment in specific types of businesses

Other Temporary Worker visas:

  • H-1B: Specialty occupations - requires employer sponsorship, annual lottery process with low rates of selection due to high number of applicants

  • L-1: Intracompany transferees - can only be used by employee transfers from international companies

  • E-1/E-2: Treaty traders and investors - can only be used for international trade professionals or business owners

  • TN: NAFTA professionals - specialized occupations for citizens of Canada and Mexico only


Because the EB-1 and O-1 visas are granted on the basis of extraordinary ability, the way that your application package is put together is extremely important in the rate of success. Each client has very different credentials and abilities and the Crimson team is solely dedicated to understanding every client’s and building a highly personalized and cohesive application package.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, or a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry, and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

  • Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field. For detailed information regarding how USCIS evaluates evidence to determine O-1A eligibility, including examples and considerations that are especially relevant for those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

  • Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. For detailed information on how USCIS evaluates evidence to determine O-1B eligibility, including examples and considerations.

Timeline and Process

O-1 visas typically take 4 to 6+ months to process depending on the number of applications being processed at the time and the competency of the application being submitted. Therefore, it’s imperative to start working with us as early as possible to ensure a timely result.


Typical Process Steps:

  1. Determine Eligibility:

    • Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the O-1 visa, demonstrating extraordinary ability or achievement in your field.

  2. Find a U.S. Employer or Agent:

    • Unlike some other visa categories, the O-1 visa requires a U.S. employer or agent to act as the petitioner on behalf of the beneficiary (the person applying for the visa).

  3. Employer Files Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker:

    • Your U.S. employer or agent must file Form I-129 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is the petition for a nonimmigrant worker and includes supporting documentation to establish your extraordinary ability or achievement.

  4. Include Supporting Documentation:

    • Gather and submit evidence to support your O-1 petition. This may include letters of recommendation, awards, publications, media coverage, and any other documentation showcasing your extraordinary abilities or achievements.

  5. USCIS Approval:

    • Once USCIS receives the petition, they will review the materials and make a decision. If approved, your employer will receive a Notice of Action (Form I-797).

  6. Consular Processing (if outside the U.S.):

    • If you are outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Follow the instructions provided by the embassy or consulate, which may include an interview.

  7. Enter the U.S.:

    • Upon visa approval, you can enter the U.S. up to 10 days before the employment start date listed on your approved Form I-129.

  8. Duration of Stay and Extensions:

    • O-1 visas are typically granted for an initial period to cover the specific event or project. Extensions are possible, and the total duration of stay can be up to three years initially and then in one-year increments.

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