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O-1 Employee

Eligibility Criteria

The O-1 nonimmigrant category is available to foreign nationals who have achieved "sustained international acclaim for extraordinary ability in an academic field in which they are among a small percentage of experts who have risen to the top of their field."

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.

FAQ and Other Information

Download this document for a a detailed discusssion of the process and an FAQ.

O-1 Process at Stanford

Stanford-sponsored O-1's and O-1 extension cases are intitated through a Workflow transaction; see below.

Departments who are interested in sponsoring an employee in O status should contact Lee Madden at the Bechtel International Center.

Need to know the difference between a "new petition" and a "change of status?" What's "consular processing?" See this document to dispel the mystery! See this reference sheet to avoid common problems as you are work through your transaction.

Is this an extension? Click here for extension instructions. Click here for a checklist you can use with all types of cases.


Getting Started

In order for an O-1 petition to be submitted on behalf of a Stanford employee, an appropriate representative of the hiring unit needs to submit an O-1 request through 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. The transaction and follow-through responsibilities are not simple clerical tasks and should not be delegated as if they were. After being granted authority to use Workflow, users are strongly encouraged to view the training video found on this page. Some errors in initiating a Workflow transaction are fatal and require one to start over from the beginning. Please note that Workflow was not specifically designed for the O-1 classification. All references in the training session AND the transaction will be to H-1. As long as you select O-1 in the pull down menu and instruct your candidate accordingly, you don't have to worry about this.

Once successfully submitted, the request will then route through the system to various approvers, including an export control respondent (see below), before reaching Bechtel.

Here is an outline of the process:

Submission of the O-1 request in Workflow

1) Department administrator initiates transaction in Temporary Employment Visa Workflow

2) Prospective employee completes data in web form upon receiving message generated by initiation of transaction and submits this information to the system. (Be aware that until the employee completes their panels and submits them to the system, the transaction is NOT VISIBLE to the initiator.)

3) To find the transaction, CLICK on the OPA/Bechtel tab in Workflow. Transaction is routed back to department administrator for additional data entry. 

4) Department administrator enters remaining required data on form and submits it. Transaction routes to additional approvers and then after all approvers have approved transaction, to Bechtel.

Export Control
Please review the University's Export Control site here, and note the designation of an Export Control Respondent, and again the references to "H-1," which can be ignored. 


It can take a transaction, from the date of initiation by the department administrator, anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months (or longer) to reach Bechtel, depending upon how quickly the department and beneficiary are able to complete the required steps of the transaction.  We recommend that department administrators not indicate a start date on the form earlier than 2 - 3 months from the date they initiate the transaction.

After the Workflow transaction is received at Bechtel

5) After the transaction has been finalized, evidence collection can begin. Departments will need to carry out three tasks:  A) compile evidence of the beneficiary's extraordinary ability (see below, under "Documents and Evidence Comprising an O-1 Petition"); B) prepare a cover letter describing how the beneficiary meets the standard of extraordinary ability (see guidelines here, and a template here); and C) work with at least three independent, non-Stanford experts in the academic field to prepare of letters of recommendation (see guidelines here, and a sample here) OR contract with an agency, as linked in the guidelines, to secure these letters. Be sure to use the checklist!

6) The dossier of materials A-C as compiled by the department representative is forwarded to Bechtel with the checklist.

7) Bechtel reviews paperwork submitted to ensure the documentation is complete and prepares Form I-129.

8) Bechtel prepares petition paperwork, which includes Form I-129, along with the dossier of evidence, and required fees to USCIS. Unless USCIS requests additional evidence in order to approve the petition, or denies the petition, an approval notice can be received by Bechtel in about 3 weeks after petition has been sent, if premium processing is used.

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

Documents and Evidence Comprising an O-1 Petition

Plus three letters from prominent, arm's length experts who can whose letters of recommendation will serve as a group peer review.

Detailed instruction, guidelines and templates are available to assist departments and hiring units to prepare these materials; click on the links in the section above. USCIS makes the decision about whether an individual qualifies for O-1 classification based on the documentation provided with the O-1 petition. Also, review the "Assembly" section of the CIS page for instructions on how to tab, compile and identify evidence under "In preparing your packet." As always, cover your dossier with the checklist.

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 to hold O-1 classification (although, significantly, 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 work only 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

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.

Extensions of O-1 status are available in one year increments. As opf April 27, 2021, the O-1 extension process no longer requires submission evidence and letters of recommendation. 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 forms:  Please check here 
  • Make sure checks are payable to "Department of Homeland Security," NOT "Citizenship and Immigration Services"
  • Be sure to use the checklist.

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. Use the extension-specific instructions you can find here, and be sure to use the checklist.

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.