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Maintaining O-1 Visa Status

maintaining O-1 visa status

An O-1 visa for nonimmigrants is an extraordinary abilities visa. This means it is meant for gifted individuals who are entering the United States to work, study, or perform. An O-1 Visa affords you some special benefits when visiting the US. However, while maintaining O-1 Visa status you must be sure to follow important guidelines.

O-1 Visa Background

The key to maintaining your O-1 visa status is to remain current on the requirements for this nonimmigrant visa. The O-1 is purposed for foreign nationals with extraordinary achievements. By presenting evidence of the following criteria, you can make your case to the USCIS:

For the O-1A, you need three of the following:

  • A lesser award that is either nationally or internationally recognized
  • Membership in an organization that mandates your extraordinary ability for entry
  • Professional publications with your published material relevant to your field
  • Genuine significant contributions to your field
  • Scholarly articles in your field that were written by you
  • Commercial success or evidence of a large compensation as proof of your ability
  • Having been a judge of the work of your peers on a panel or individual setting.
  • Having held jobs that are pivotal to well-known organizations in your field.

Note: if you have an internationally recognized award on the level of a Nobel Prize, that will suffice in lieu of having three of the above.

For the O-1B, you will need three of the following:

  • Evidence that you have been and/or will play a lead or starring role in a well-known production.
  • Recognition for your achievements on a national or international scale.
  • Having a starring or lead role in a well-known program, performance, or organization.
  • Notable success commercially demonstrated by reviews, newspapers, or publications.
  • Recognition by organizations in your field for your extraordinary achievements.
  • A salary that demonstrates your ability.

Keep these requirements in mind as you endeavor to file for extensions or transfers. Maintaining your O-1 visa status is paramount to continuing to work in the U.S. under this visa.

Material Change or Changing Your Employer

When you file for O-1 Visa status, your employer must submit a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you change employers or jobs, your new employer has to file a new Form I-129. If an agent was the one who initially filed, they have to file an amended form with evidence from your new employer.

You also have to file an amended form if there is a “material change” in your employment. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exhaustive list of what qualifies as a material change but there are a few guidelines as to the type of change that can qualify:

  • Moving to a new worksite or location, specifically, if the new site is in a different city.
  • Changing job titles, jobs or salary. If you receive a promotion or move to a job with new responsibilities it can count as a material change, especially if you receive a new salary.
  • If you receive fewer hours or a smaller salary.
  • If you change from full-time to part-time, or vice versa.
  • Quitting or being fired from your job.
  • If your company changes in a major way. Merger, acquisition, or changes their Federal Employer Identification Number.

Some changes may be small enough that it isn’t necessary to file an amended return. However, it is important to be sure if you suspect that you or your employer needs to file.

Travel Abroad on O-1 Visa Status

If you are required or decide to travel outside the United States, you are able to leave and return while you are on an O-1 Visa. However, re-entering the US will require some important documents.

  • A passport that’s valid 6 months longer than your O-1 Visa expiration
  • A valid O-1 visa stamped in your passport (in most cases, although there are a few exceptions). If your stamps are expired, it is important to note that visa stamps are not issued inside the US. However, you can have your passport re-stamped at a US consulate or embassy. It’s best to check your stamp expiration date before traveling abroad on an O-1 visa.
  • You will need a Form 1-797, Approval Notice. This is a multipurpose form that is issued by the USCIS. It serves as proof that the government approved your O-1 Visa status in U.S. It approves your employer’s petition to classify you under a certain Visa, in this case, O-1 and it also can serve as proof of an O-1 Visa extension. It can also serve as proof that you are a qualified immigrant to enter or re-enter the US.

If you are entering the US by crossing the border, it is important that you have all of the above documents. You should also be patient while answering all questions clearly. Incorrect or omitted information can result in border protection denying re-entry.

There are also different procedures when traveling between the US and bordering countries like Canada and Mexico. You may qualify for automatic visa revalidation without having to revalidate at an embassy or consulate. You may qualify if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have been in Mexico or Canada for fewer than 30 days.
  • You cannot be a citizen of a country that the Government has determined to be a sponsor of terrorism. Countries on that list currently include Syria, Iran, and Sudan.
  • You must have an I-94 form.

Click here to learn about O-1 Visa Extension | How to Apply and Requirements

O-1 Visa Status Important Factors

To maintain your O-1 Visa status, there are also a number of other things you have to pay attention to and keep up to date. Before you begin your trip, you should take a look at your passport expiration date. Whether you are a student, an athlete or a business professional you need to have a valid passport throughout the length of your stay.

It’s ideal to have a passport expiration date that is around six months longer than your Visa expiration. If you need to renew your passport, it may take time depending on the renewal process of your home country. If you renew your Visa and extend your stay past your passport’s expiration, you will need to renew your passport as well.

When you enter the US, you fill out a Form I-94. It will serve as a record of where you are going and the address you are staying. If your address changes, you will need to file a Form AR-11 with the Department of Homeland Security. You can also report your change of address online through the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s change of address form.

If you choose to submit a Form AR-11 instead of using the online method, it is important to keep a record of everything you submit to DHS. Keep a copy of your AR-11 form and ask for a postal receipt. If there are any problems or discrepancies along the way, you will be able to prove that you sent the proper documentation on time. Take a look at our O-1 Visa Complete Guide for more information on related topics.

Your Dependents

If you or your employer decides that you need to stay in the US and a Form I-129 is filed to extend your Visa, your spouse, and your children will also need to file to extend. Your spouse and any dependents (unmarried children under 21) must file a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Dependants can all file a single form along with any supporting documents. It is recommended that the Form I-129 and Form I-539 be filed together to avoid confusion and so they are processed simultaneously. However, since they are technically separate documents, it is important that supporting documents, like passports, are produced for you and the members of your family. 

Consult a Qualified Immigration Lawyer

In all cases, it’s best to consult a qualified immigration attorney who has details pertaining to your case. Your O-1 visa represents a significant investment on your part of both time and money. The best way to protect that investment is to have an expert on your side.

Our O-1 visa attorneys have years of experience handling complex cases relating to the O-1 visa. If you are worried about maintaining your status or even starting a new petition, we can help you every step of the way. To get in touch with one of our attorneys, you can fill out our contact form and schedule your consultation today.