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O-1 Employee

Eligibility Criteria

The O-1 nonimmigrant category is available to foreign nationals who have achieved and sustained national or international acclaim for extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.

The category permits an employer to petition the Department of Homeland Security for an employee to come to the United States on a temporary basis to continue to work within his or her area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

As an immigration classification intended to accommodate those who are among the small percentage of experts who have risen to the top of their field, O-1 status is not appropriate for postdocs or others in programs of training or other kinds of professional or academic preparation.

O-1 Process at Stanford

Stanford-sponsored O-1's and O-1 extension cases must be processed by Bechtel International Center. Departments who are interested in sponsoring an employee in O status should contact Lee Madden at the Bechtel International Center.

A request for an O-1 is initiated in the Workflow environment in Axess. Representatives of departments and other units filing an employment visa will need authority in the relevant organizational code, and should be familiar with the functions of appointing, hiring and paying the type of employee to be sponsored. After being granted authority to use Workflow, users are strongly encouraged to attend a training session in its use.

Appointments or offers of employment must be approved by the relevant authorities before a transaction can be approved.

Required Documents

  • Formal job offer letter, signed by the cognizant dean, chair, or PI. The letter must specify dates for which the work authorization is requested.
  • Documentation to support evidence of extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business or athletics.
    Evidence of extraordinary ability can be demonstrated by
    • Receipt of a Nobel Prize Caliber Award, or
    • At least three of the following:
      • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.
      • Membership in an association which requires outstanding achievements of its members, as judged by recognized professionals in the field.
      • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
      • Published material in professional or major trade publication or major media about the applicant’s work.
      • Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of others in the field.
      • Five or six letters from prominent colleagues who can confirm the applicant’s original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance to the field.
      • Evidence of employment in a critical capacity or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
      • Evidence of commanding a high salary or other compensation for services. This is usually not applicable to academic positions.

USCIS makes the decision about whether an individual qualifies for O-1 classification based on the documentation provided with the O-1 petition.

Key Features

  • The O-1 has an initial period of stay of up to three years, with one year extensions thereafter. There is no maximum cumulative duration limit like the H-1B.
  • Employees subject to two-year residence requirement are eligible for O-1 classification (although they are not eligible to change from J to O status within the U.S.; they must apply for an O entry visa abroad and re-enter the U.S. in O-1 status).
  • The O-1 visa is employer specific. A USCIS-approved petition submitted by the Bechtel International Center authorizes the individual to only work in the position specified in the petition filed by Stanford.
  • An O-1 visa holder may work for more than one employer, but each employer must file a separate visa petition.
  • The hiring department is responsible for the return cost of transportation if the foreign national is dismissed before the petition period ends.

O-1 Dependents

The spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21) are eligible for O-3 dependent visa status. O-3 status does not allow employment, however O-3 dependents may attend school full-time. Dependents extend or change their status on Form I-539; instructions are here.

Processing Time

O-1 applications can be submitted to USCIS up to six months before the intended start date. An O-1 petition and approval process can take three to four months. For an extra fee USCIS offers “premium processing.” which can reduce O-1 processing times significantly. This process normally takes 15 working days. If, however, USCIS requires additional information to process the case, they respond with a “request for evidence" (RFE). The 15 day clock starts only after USCIS has all the information it needs in order to adjudicate the petition.

PREMIUM PROCESSING HAS BEEN SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY as of March 20. USCIS is accepting petitions for regular processing only. Departments should expect a 4-6 month turnaround time for O-1 petitions.

Extensions of O-1 status are available in one year increments. The O-1 extension process requires submission of proof that the employment is ongoing and generally includes updated evidence of extraordinary ability. A petition must be filed before the current O-1 status ends in order to allow an individual to maintain status and remain on payroll.


  • USCIS fee for Petition (O-1 employee): Form I-129
  • USCIS fee for Premium Processing: Form I-907
  • USCIS fee for dependents applying to change to or extend O-3 visa status while in the US, as applicable: I-539
  • See the USCIS fee schedule for these applications  Please check here 
  • Make sure checks are payable to "Department of Homeland Security," NOT "Citizenship and Immigration Services"

Other Considerations

Job Change

If there are any material changes in employment, please contact Lee Madden at Bechtel.

Address Change

All non-immigrants are required to notify USCIS within 10 days of a change of residential address. Notification of change of address is accomplished by completing the Form AR-11.

Travel Outside the U.S. and Re-Entry

O-1 Extensions

Extensions of O-1 status are available in one year increments. The O-1 extension process requires submission of proof that the employment is ongoing and generally includes updated evidence of extraordinary ability. A petition must be filed before the current O-1 status ends in order to allow an individual to maintain status and remain on payroll.

Working While Waiting for an O-1 Extension Approval

If a petition is filed in a timely manner, an individual in O-1 status is authorized to continue to work and be paid for up to 240 days after the expiration of the current O-1 status. Bechtel International Center will fax a letter to the appointing department once the extension petition has been mailed to USCIS to verify an individual's eligibility for continuing work authorization.

Once the extension petition is approved by USCIS, individuals traveling abroad may need to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to get a new O-1 visa before returning to the U.S.