If you qualify as a foreign worker with extraordinary achievements, then there’s a good chance you want to know everything there is to know about your prestigious visa including how long it will take. While, the official O-1 visa processing time is relatively short, there are some other things to take into consideration when planning out the timeline.
What is the O-1 Visa?
The O1 visa is one of the more difficult visas to obtain. In order to be considered eligible, you must fall into one of the following categories:
- O-1A: this category is for those that can provide evidence of extraordinary ability in the areas of science, business, education, or athletics. These can include professions such as outstanding researcher, executive, professor, or athlete.
- O-1B: this is meant for individuals that have achieved the extraordinary in the arts, movies, or television. This includes world-renowned painters, musicians, and actors.
How to Qualify
Because the exact definition of extraordinary can easily be up for debate, the USCIS defines it as this: “demonstrating a level of expertise or distinction indicating that the person is one of a small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.”
This is still a general definition that is difficult to put into legal terms. Therefore the USCIS has also provided us with a list of things that qualify as appropriate evidence for your extraordinary ability.
For the O-1A visa, you must be able to produce a renowned international award like a Nobel Prize or have evidence of three of the following items:
- Other, smaller international or national prizes that display your achievements.
- Being a member of an association or organization in your field that requires extraordinary achievement for membership.
- Having published material in a journal or other media that is distinguished and related to your field.
- Any scholarly or scientific contributions of significance to your field.
- Having been the author of any scholarly articles that appear in professional journals in your field.
- A large salary that indicates your extraordinary ability
- Having been a judge or panel member critiquing other’s work in your field.
- Playing a critical role in a distinguished company or organization in your field.
In order to be considered for the O-1B visa, you need to show that you have received an international award such as the Emmy award or the Oscar. In lieu of this, you can submit evidence of at least three of the following items:
- Being a lead performer in a production that has been advertised, reviewed, and publicly released.
- Having a lead role in an organization or association that has a distinguished reputation.
- Journals, magazines, newspapers, or other official publications reinforcing your achievement.
- Proof of having attained commercial success through your title, ranking, reviews, ratings, or other suitable means.
- Commanding a large salary that demonstrates your achievements.
These lists, while strict, are not necessarily exhaustive. If you believe that you have evidence that would be suitable to submit to the USCIS, bring it to your immigration attorney to determine if it suffices.
What Are the Steps?
In order to understand the O1 visa processing time, we first need to walk through each step in the application process and determine how long each will take.
The first step is to submit an I-129 petition. In most situations, you will need to have your employer or agent file this petition. If you do not have an employer, speak with your immigration attorney to see if self-petitioning is an option.
Along with your petition, you will need to submit:
- A consultation. This is defined as a “written advisory opinion from a peer group or person with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability.” If you can show that this peer group does not exist, you may be able to have this requirement waived.
- A contract between you and your employer that can be either a written one or a summary of an oral one.
- An itinerary of the work that will be done in the U.S.
This all should be submitted along with the petition between 45 days and one year before your work in the U.S. begins. Once the I-129 petition is approved, you may be asked to go to a U.S. consulate or embassy for a one-on-one interview. Even if the petition is approved, the immigration officer at the embassy still has the ability to deny the visa.
What is the O1 Visa Processing Time?
Overall, the O1 visa processing time is relatively short. There’s no need to wait for a Labor Certification Application nor are there specific dates that one must adhere to. The I-129 can take anywhere from 2-3 months depending on the service center that processes your petition.
If you are scheduled for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, then you will need to take the amount of waiting time into account. Fortunately, the interview itself can take as little as 20 minutes.
If 2-3 months is too long of a time to wait for your petition to be processed, the USCIS has an optional feature to expedite the O1 visa processing time. With premium processing, those 2-3 months will be shortened to 15 calendar days for a fee of $1,225.
So, when you add it together, the O1 visa processing time is anywhere between 15 days and 3 months depending on whether you go through an interview or if you opt for premium processing.
O1 to Green Card Processing Time
Fortunately, the O1 visa is considered to be a “dual intent” visa, meaning that O1 holders can pursue legal permanent residency through a green card. For most O1 applicants, the likely green card choice is the EB-1. This is because the requirements for the EB-1 are strikingly similar to those for the O1.
Luckily, the O1 visa processing time to an EB-1 is also relatively short when compared to other green card transitions. If you are an O1 holder, here are some of the options available to you:
- The EB-1A green card is for, you guessed it, people with extraordinary ability. Under most circumstances, the evidence that you used for your O-1 visa should suffice. However, be sure to retain an attorney before starting this transition to make sure that your evidence suffices. The main benefit of the EB-1A is that all applicants can self-petition, meaning that they do not need an employer or agent to petition.
- The EB-1B green card is for outstanding researchers and professors. Because many O1 holders are in the fields of research and education, this is a logical choice for many.
- The EB-1C is meant for executives and managers of multinational companies. Normally, this green card is perfect for L-1 visa holders. However, since the O1 also covers people who show extraordinary ability in the area of business, you may qualify for this category.
To move from the nonimmigrant O1 visa to the EB-1 green card, you or your employer must file an I-140 petition with the USCIS. Once the petition is received, that date becomes your priority date. You can only move on to the next step when your priority date is current. While other employment-based green cards have waiting times of several years, the
Fortunately, while other employment-based green cards have waiting times of several years, all priority dates are current in the EB-1 category. This means that you can apply to adjust your status as soon as the I-140 petition is approved, which should take about 6-8 months without premium processing.
When your petition is approved, you can submit an I-485 form to have your status adjusted. This should also take about 6 months and premium processing is not available for this form.
All told, the O1 visa to green card processing time should take about one year without premium processing.
O1 Renewal Processing Time
O1 visas are initially granted for an initial period of three years. After that, you will need to get an extension on your visa in intervals of one year each. Fortunately, there is no limit to the number of extensions you can receive. Getting an O1 visa renewal or extension can be obtained by fulfilling these requirements:
- You must not have violated your visa conditions or been convicted of a crime.
- You must also have a passport that will remain valid throughout your stay in the U.S.
- The USCIS will require a statement from your employer that lays out the reasons for the extension and why it is necessary for you to complete your goal in the U.S.
- You will need to bring your I-94 form with a departure date that has not yet passed as well as a new I-129 petition for your extension.
The O1 visa renewal processing time should take about as much time as your original visa and can be expedited through premium processing.
It is important to remember that just because your original O1 visa was granted, this does not mean that your renewal or extension will be approved.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
With an immigration issue as particular and delicate as the O1 visa, it pays to be prepared. The best way to make sure that your evidence is solid and your case is waterproof is to hire an immigration attorney to handle the specifics. From analyzing the O1 processing time to making sure that your case is supported by the best evidence, a qualified attorney is invaluable to O1 applicants.
The lawyers here at SGM Law Group have helped countless extraordinary individuals obtain their O1 visas over the years. Retaining one of our attorneys will ensure that your case is in the right hands.
To get in touch with one of our attorneys, you can complete this contact form and schedule a consultation with our office today.