The O-1 visa is for foreign nationals who possess extraordinary ability or have records of exceptional achievement with national or international recognition in their professional fields.
This visa category is divided into two subcategories:
- O-1A: This is for those with extraordinary ability in science, education, athletics, or business.
- O-1B: this category is for those with extraordinary achievement in the art, motion picture, or television industries.
Just like other U.S. work visas, the O-1 nonimmigrant visa is sponsored by a U.S. employer. However, O-1 applicants can also be sponsored by their agent. Qualified O-1 visa applicants are permitted to come to the United States with their spouses and children. This dependent visa type is known as the O-3 visa and is sponsored by the same entity as the principal O-1 holder.
O-1 Visa Spouse Eligibility Criteria
To qualify for an O-3 visa, you must be the spouse of an O-1 visa holder and provide enough evidence to prove that fact. Also, you must prove that you are not inadmissible based on health grounds or criminal history.
How to Process O-1 Visa Spouse Application
There are two filing options available for an O-1 visa spouse depending on whether you are in or outside the United States. If you are in the U.S., you will need to submit an I-539 to the USCIS. If you are overseas, you will go through consular processing at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country before applying for O-3 admission at a port of entry. Each process is explained below.
O-1 Visa Spouse Process If You Are In the U.S.
Your O-3 visa petition can be submitted alongside the O-1 visa petition for your spouse. This will be filed by the same U.S. employer sponsoring your spouse’s I-129 petition. If you are currently on a valid independent nonimmigrant visa, you may decide to change your status to O-3 before your current status expires. Whether you are filing concurrently or separately, you will need to submit an I-539 to apply for a change of status to an O-3.
O-1 Visa Spouse If You Are Outside the United States
In this case, you cannot file concurrently with your spouse. You will need to wait until the I-129 petition filed by your spouse’s U.S. employer is approved. This approval will be part of the supporting documents to use in processing your O-3 visa.
You will have to follow the O-3 visa guidelines applicable at the embassy or consulate you are applying from, as the instructions vary between embassies. The general guidelines for O-3 consular processing are as follows:
DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
This is the official form that must be filled online by all nonimmigrant applicants using consular processing. You will need to follow the online instructions and provide all the required information. The form has a confirmation page and code which you will need to print out and keep to bring to your interview.
Pay the Nonimmigrant Visa Fees
You will need to pay the $190 O-3 visa fee as part of the consulate processing requirements. There may also be additional issuance fees depending on your country of origin. Make sure you get receipts for all payments made and attach them in your document file.
Schedule an Interview
Being the spouse of an O-1 holder does not automatically grant you an O-3 visa. Generally, visa applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to appear for an interview to prove their eligibility and admissibility to the United States.
You will need to check the embassy or consulate website for their interview guidelines and book a date. The waiting period for the interview will depend on the caseload at the embassy or consulate. You will receive an interview confirmation letter, which must be taken along to your interview location.
Documents Checklist for O-1 Visa Spouse
Whether you are inside or outside the United States, you will need to provide supporting evidence of your marital relationship to your O-1 spouse as well as evidence that you meet all other eligibility criteria. The following are some of the documents that are generally required:
- I-797 form, the approval notice of your spouse’s O-1 visa,
- Your marriage certificate—the most crucial legal proof of your marital relationship with your O-1 spouse.
- Your interview confirmation letter
- Receipts of all payments made
- Passport photograph specifications according to the DOS photo requirements
- A copy of the passport of your O-1 spouse
- A copy of the O-1 visa of your spouse
- Your DS-160 confirmation page and receipt
Attend O-1 Visa Spouse Interview
Your interview will be done at the embassy or consulate where you applied. You will need to prepare for your interview by reviewing the submitted documents and making sure you give honest and accurate answers to all of the questions. The interview questions will generally be centered on your marital relationship, your biographic information, and other factors that relate to eligibility for O-3 status.
Your performance at the interview will largely determine your approval success, which is why you must be thorough. If your immigration interview is successful, you will be granted an O-3 visa, which will allow you to travel to a U.S. port of entry. However, it must be noted that having a visa doesn’t guarantee you entry into the United States. You can still be turned away at the port of entry.
O-1 Visa Spouse: Point of Entry Process
Upon your arrival, you will need to present your documents to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The officer will review your documents and ask you about the purpose of your visit.
It is within the discretion of the CBP officers to deny or grant an applicant entry after reviewing their documents. If entry is granted, your documents will be returned to you, and you will receive an admission date stamp on your arrival/departure card. This will indicate the period of stay of your visa.
How Long Is the O-3 Valid?
As a spouse to an O-1 visa holder, your visa validity will be of the same length as that of your spouse. The O-1 visa is issued with a 3-year validity period, with an option for extension. If your spouse applies for an extension, you may also do the same to extend your stay in the U.S. O-1 visas can be extended for one year at a time, which can be repeated for as many times as is needed.
Can I Work on an O-3 Visa?
Unfortunately, O-1 spouses are not permitted to work in the United States. Taking up employment will be a violation of your visa status and may affect your stay, leading to heavy penalties under immigration law.
If you want to work, you will need to change your status to a work visa category, such as an H-1B. This will allow you to work in the United States, according to the guidelines of the visa status. However, keep in mind that the moment you adjust to another visa type, your status will no longer be tied to that of your O-1 spouse.
Can I Study on an O-3 Visa?
You may study in the United States with your O-3 visa, either on a full-time or part-time basis. However, your study duration should not extend beyond the visa stay of your O-1 spouse, which is three years. If your program extends beyond three years, you will need to apply for an extension of your O visa to allow you to complete your program. However, this will only be allowed if your O-1 visa spouse also applies for an extension as your O-3 visa is tied to his or her status.
Can I Apply for a Green Card?
One of the biggest benefits of the O-1 category is its “dual intent” feature, which allows its holders to apply for a green card. Also, unlike some other nonimmigrant visas, there is no time constraint as to when a green card application can be filed by an O-1 holder. Meaning the process can begin immediately after arriving in the U.S.
What Are the Green Card Categories Available to O-1 Status?
As an O-1 visa holder, you may apply for any green card category as long you meet the eligibility criteria. However, among the available types, the best option is the EB-1 green card. This is because the EB-1 immigrant category and O-1 nonimmigrant requirements have similar criteria. Just like the O-1, the EB-1 is also meant for those with extraordinary ability and significant achievements in their fields.
To apply for an EB-1 or other green card categories, an O-1 holder will need to file an I-140 petition along with supporting evidence showing his or her qualification for the requirements. If the principal O-1 visa holder applies for and gets a green card, this will pave the way for the O-3 spouse also to become a green card holder.
F-2A Green Card for O-1 Visa Spouse
The F-2A (family-based) green card category is an immigrant visa which allows spouses and children of a permanent resident to become green card holders. After getting a green card, your spouse will be able to sponsor your permanent residence petition.
How to Apply for F-2A Visa
Every year, at least 77% (114,200) of all family-based green cards are issued to applicants in the F-2 category. This means that being a spouse of a permanent resident will boost your chances of green card approval. In order to do so, the following steps must be taken:
Your permanent resident spouse will need to file an I-130 petition on your behalf. This is to establish your marital relationship and eligibility. Once the I-130 is approved, and your priority date is current (i.e., there is a visa available for you), you will be able to apply for a green card. The next step will depend on your location.
File the I-485 If You Are In the United States
You will submit an I-485 application to adjust your status from nonimmigrant to green card holder. The form must be submitted to the USCIS with the necessary supporting documents.
Complete DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application If You Are Overseas
To apply for an F-2A green card outside the U.S., you will need to complete a DS-260 online application and pay the processing fee. You will also need to schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
Complete the Medical Exam
As part of the F2-A green card process, every applicant must undergo the immigration medical examination and vaccinations. The result will help determine your admissibility on health grounds.
Attend the Green Card Interview
This is the last aspect of your F-2A green card application process. Ensure you attend the interview at the location, date, and time scheduled. Your punctuality, honesty, and attitude are crucial to your interview performance assessment by the immigration officers.
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Being the spouse of an O-1 visa holder does not automatically guarantee you O-3 visa approval. Also, adjusting from O-1 or O-3 nonimmigrant status to a green card holder is a complex process.
You must prove your eligibility and admissibility beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to do so will ultimately lead to delay, rejection, or denial. This is why you should hire an experienced immigration attorney when processing a visa for your O-1 spouse.
VisaNation Law Group has a team of highly experienced O-visa lawyers who have helped several of our clients process their O-1 and O-3 visas, as well as adjust to lawful permanent resident status. Whether you are applying from overseas or you are in the U.S., you can count on us to give you the best chance of approval. You can schedule a consultation with a VisaNation Law Group immigration lawyer today by filling out this contact form.