As a non-immigrant in the U.S., you have a limited time to complete the purpose of your trip before you reach the date on your Form I-94. As an O-1 visa holder, you are visiting the United States as someone with extraordinary abilities in business, science, education, athletics, or the arts.
Under an O-1 visa, you can stay for up to three years. However, just like any trip, plans can change, or complications may arise that require you to stay longer than your allotted time. Especially, if you have an O-1 visa, it’s possible that the work or project you are involved in requires you to extend your stay. In such a scenario, the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has an O-1 visa extension process.
For an O-1 visa extension, you must fill out the I-129 form. After that, your petition will be subject to approval by USCIS. If you remain in the United States past your 1-94 date without an extension, you may be removed from the country or even deported. In which case, it may be very difficult to return.
How is O-1 Visa Time Allotted?
The length of your stay is dependent on the project you are visiting the U.S. to complete. For instance, if you are shooting a movie, you may need to show shooting schedules to indicate how long you will need to be in the country to finish the project. You are then allowed to enter 10 days before the project begins, and you can stay 10 days after it’s completed. The maximum is three years; after that, you can apply for an extension of up to one year at a time.
O-1 Visa Extension Requirements
Before you are able to file for an O-1 visa extension, you must fulfill a few prerequisite qualifications:
- You were legally admitted into the U.S. under a status that has not expired.
- You haven’t violated the conditions of your admission or committed a crime that would cause your visa to be revoked.
- You have a passport that is valid throughout your visit to the U.S.
If you meet those qualifications, you can begin the process of filing for an O-1 visa extension. Here’s what you’ll need to apply:
- Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. This form is filed by an employer who is petitioning for a worker to be allowed into the U.S. for temporary work. Though it has a variety of purposes, it is an O-1 requirement.
- A copy of your I-94 form.
- A statement explaining why the extension is necessary. You may also want to provide evidence that indicates unanticipated factors extended the duration of your project. Things like scheduling, the tasks you still have to complete, and any reasons the project was delayed can help your case.
It is important to be realistic about the tasks that still need to be completed and why you, specifically, are required to complete them. The USCIS will look at your explanation and evidence when deciding how long to extend your stay.
What about Family or Members of my Team?
Visa holders of all kinds travel with family members and other individuals. As someone who qualifies for an O-1 visa, your specified work in the U.S. may also require you to travel with assistants and members of your team or business. Even though you hold an O-1 visa and file for an extension with an I-129, your family members and team members must also fill their own extensions with an I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status.
When You Should Request an Extension
Remember, you aren’t guaranteed an O-1 visa extension just by filling out the proper paperwork. Your I-129 form is subject to approval or denial by the USCIS, so it’s important to do what you can to make sure your form is likely to be approved. One factor to consider is timing, or when you fill out the form and send it in. It is recommended that you don’t file for it immediately after arriving in the U.S. An O-1 extension is reserved for unexpected trip extensions, and if the USCIS suspects that you planned to file for an extension from the beginning, they may reject your form. Wait at least three months into your allotted time before filing for an extension.
However, you also don’t want to wait too long, either. The O-1 visa processing time can be lengthy, and if you wait too long, you may get too close to your I-94 date. Take a look at the date you are scheduled to leave and be sure to file for an extension at least 45 days before your O-1 visa expires.
O-1 Visa Extension Processing Time
The processing time for the O-1 visa extension may vary depending on the USCIS office in charge of your case and how well the petition is filed. However, the most important thing is to submit your request within the given timeframe, which is no later than 45 days before the expiration of the current visa. Alternatively, using premium processing can also be the best option.
Using Premium Processing for O-1 Extension
Your employer can submit Form I-129 along with Form I-907 to request premium processing for the application. Using premium processing will require an additional fee of $1,440 and means that USCIS will adjudicate the petition within 15 calendar days, expediting the process and helping to avoid having your current status expired while waiting for approval.
Though USCIS allows continued employment while the O-1 extension petition is pending, it might pose certain risks that could lead to the beneficiary having to leave the United States. Premium processing can help you overcome this risk as you will know whether or not your extension is approved within 15 calendar days.
Processing Fees for O-1 Visa Extension
- Form I-129 Processing Fee: $460
- Premium Processing Fee (optional): $1,440
If you have dependents on an O-3 visa and would like to extend their status, you will need to submit Form I-539 with a filing fee of $370.
If Your O-1 Visa Extension is Approved
Once your application is approved, you will receive a second I-94 with an extended date of expiration. However, it is important that you do not lose or throw away your original I-94. You will need to submit both the first and second I-94 form when you depart. You should also, keep a separate copy of both for your own records in case the originals are lost or damaged.
If Your O-1 Visa Extension is Denied
If your O-1 visa extension is denied, the USCIS will send you letting you know that your application was denied and the reasons why it was not approved. Unfortunately, there is no appeal process, and you will be asked to leave the country when your original I-94 date expires. Regardless, you should immediately contact your O-1 visa lawyer to explore what other options may be available to you.
What if you Overstay?
Fortunately, if your O-1 visa extension is denied and you aren’t able to leave the country by your I-94 departure date, you will not be deported immediately. The USCIS will allow you some extra time beyond the expiration for you to leave the U.S., generally around 30 days depending on the date of the denial letter. However, if you overstay on your visa, you risk being deported or forcibly removed. If you do overstay on your O-2 visa the process to return may be more difficult, and if you are deported, you may be barred from entering the U.S. altogether. For that reason, if your O-2 visa expires it is better to leave and apply for a new visa than it is to be removed.
Find out about Visa Overstay Forgiveness.
Traveling Abroad While O-1 Visa Extension Petition Is Pending
You must be physically present in the United States at the time the extension petition is filed. After filing, it is best not to travel abroad while the petition remains pending. If you travel during this process, that may be counted as abandoning the extension request.
However, if international travel is unavoidable, you should discuss it with an immigration lawyer before leaving. Otherwise, you may encounter difficulties when reentering the U.S. afterward. If the extension petition is still pending when you come back, you may reenter with your prior unexpired O-1 approval notice and other documents. If the petition has been approved, you may reenter with the approval notice (if you have received it).
Changing Employers on O-1 Visa and Request for Extension
One of the many benefits of the O-1 visa is the ability to change employers. Depending on your own specific case, changing employers may or may not require you to file for an extension. In any case, your new employer will need to file Form I-129 with the USCIS. But if the initial petition was filed by an agent, they must file an amended petition through the new employer, which must also include a request for an extension.
O-1 Visa Extension for Multiple Employers
You may work for multiple employers on an O-1 visa if your petition was sponsored by an agency. The agency will act as the petitioner while you perform duties for multiple organizations as a contractor or freelancer. However, the contractual agreement and every necessary detail related to each employer must be detailed on the petition. This must include an itinerary of the activities you will perform for each employer and the start and end dates of those jobs. The extension must also be filed by your sponsoring agency.