O-1 visa holders may be extraordinary, but that doesn’t mean they can do everything by themselves. Understanding this, the USCIS has provided a visa designed specifically for those that play an indispensable role in the work of an O1 visa holder: the O2. Keep reading to find out what the requirements are and how to apply.

What is the O2 Visa?

According to the USCIS website, the O2 visa is intended for people who are planning on accompanying an O1 visa holder to the U.S. with the sole purpose of assisting in the O1’s work. Regardless of whether the work is an event, play, movie, or exhibit, the O2 holder must be considered to be an “integral part” or “essential component” to the work.

You must be able to prove that your job cannot be easily done by a U.S. worker, thereby requiring your presence in the U.S. in order for the work to be completed.

What Are the Requirements

In order to qualify for an O2 visa, you need to show one of the following:

  • You are an integral part of the work of an O-1A visa applicant. This means that it should be apparent that the work cannot be completed efficiently by anyone other than you.
  • For the assistants of O-1B visa applicants, you must play an essential role in the production, exhibit, or event taking place. This is proven by having a long working history with the O-1B holder.

Essentially, your O2 petition is tied to the O1 visa holder that you are accompanying. This is not for friends or family of the O1 holder nor is it for anyone who has a job in the fields of art, education, science, or business.

What is the O2 Visa Process?

Fortunately, the O2 visa process is very similar to the O1 process. Your employer must first file an I-129 petition on your behalf along with any supporting evidence indicating that you are an essential or integral component of the O1 visa holder’s work. Choosing the right supporting evidence can be difficult and is best left to experienced O2 visa lawyers.

Your employer will also need to submit a consultation letter written by a distinguished peer group in your field as well as a written statement that details the specifics of the work that will be done in the U.S. and your role in that work.

If you are already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant status, then your status will automatically switch over to O2 status when your I-129 petition is approved. Keep in mind that your I-129 should be filed at the same time as the principle O1 holder’s I-129.

O2 Visa Interview

If you are currently outside the U.S. when your petition is approved, then you will need to go through consular processing. This means that you will need to make an appointment with the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country to participate in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer.

You will need to complete the DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application and bring a printout of the confirmation page with you to your interview along with a valid passport and any supporting documents for your case. Be sure to ask your O2 visa lawyers which documents should be brought to the interview.

The consular officer will then ask you questions about your personal life, your work history, your current employer, and your plans once you reach the U.S. The important thing is to be prepared for these questions and answer truthfully. If the officer clears you, you can enter the U.S. under O2 status.

What is the Processing Time?

Now that we know the process of obtaining an O2 visa, we can take a look at how long it takes from start to finish.

The I-129 takes an average of 6 months to be processed. This timeline, however, varies significantly depending on the service center that processes your petition. Some applicants find themselves waiting much shorter while others wait longer. You can visit the USCIS website to see how many petitions are processed in 180 days (6 months).

If you need to go through consular processing, then you will need to make an appointment with the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. It goes without saying that you will need to wait until your appointment date before traveling there for your interview with a consular officer. The amount of time you wait will depend on how busy the consulate is.

Overall, your O2 visa processing time could take as little as a few months to as long as a year depending on your circumstances and your service centers.

Can I Use Premium Processing?

Yes. The USCIS offers a unique feature called premium processing to visas and green cards that use either the I-129 or I-140 (except for the EB-1C green card). Fortunately, the O2 visa uses the I-129, allowing you to pay an additional fee to have the processing time shortened to 15 calendar days. If the USCIS fails to process the petition in the allotted time, you will receive a refund of the premium processing fee.

It is important to note that the premium processing service only expedites the I-129 petition and does not affect any other step in the O2 visa process. It also does not guarantee that your petition will be approved. Talk to your O2 visa lawyers to learn if premium processing would be beneficial for your case.

How Long Can I Stay?

Once your O2 visa is issued, you will have the same duration of stay as your principle O1 holder, which is an initial period of 3 years. If the work requires additional time to complete, you have the option to extend your O2 visa an unlimited number of times in 1-year increments.

To file for an extension, simply have your employer file a new I-129 on your behalf along with a copy of your I-94 arrival/departure form and a letter stating why your continued presence in the U.S. is necessary.

How Much Are the Fees?

Fortunately, like the O1 visa, the O2 is relatively inexpensive for employers. Here is a breakdown of the mandatory and optional fees involved:

Change of Status

  • Basic I-129 filing fee: $460
  • Premium processing fee (optional): $1,225

Consular Processing

  • Basic I-129 filing fee: $460
  • Premium processing fee (optional): $1,225
  • DS-160 fee: $190
  • Biometrics fee (if applicable): $85

Keep in mind that the I-129 fee is your employer’s responsibility. By law, you are not permitted to pay this fee. However, the DS-160 and biometrics fee will be your responsibility. The premium processing fee is payable by either you or your employer.

How Our O2 Visa Lawyers Can Help

No aspect of immigration law is easy. That’s why it’s never advisable to attempt anything alone, especially an O2 visa. To avoid unnecessary and costly delays, consider retaining an immigration attorney to guide you along the way.

Here at SGM Law Group, our O2 visa lawyers are uniquely experienced in helping people through the O visa process. With a long and successful track record, our attorneys will use their years of expertise to help you gather evidence, file, and address any unexpected issues.

To make sure that your case is in the right hands, you can fill out our contact form and schedule a consultation with one of our O2 visa lawyers today.