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The O-1 Program at Stanford

US Citizenship and Immigration Service regulations describe the O-1 nonimmigrant category as being available to foreign nationals who have achieved "sustained 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 work in the United States on a temporary basis within their area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

Who Needs an O-1?
There are a few Stanford affiliates who have no alternative but to seek O-1 status:

(Some) Physicians
H-1 regulations restrict the use of that status by physicians with more than incidental patient care. A physician with more than 20% of their FTE dedicated to patient care who needs immigration support must either have graduated from a US medical school, or otherwise have passed all three parts of the MLEs in order to be approved for H-1 status by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. In the absence of one of these factors, O-1 is the alternative.

Former participants in the J-1 program may find themselves with a restriction on changing status and/or getting an H-1. Sometimes the restriction is hard to waive; Fulbright or ECFMG sponsorship automatically invokes this restriction, and it can be incurred in other ways, as well. The restriction does not extend to being approved for O-1 status (although changing to that status inside the US is still prohibited). (Canadian citizens can temporarily avoid the restriction; please inquire.)

H-1 exhaustion

The H-1 program is limited to six years of presence in that status, after which the user has to depart the US for a year. There are provisions that allow extensions for those who are in the green card process, but outside of those exceptions, the only way to continue a program of activity without interruption is to move to a different classification.

Other than the scenarios described above, O-1 status is probably not necessary. Postdocs, as trainees, are expected to be in J-1 status, and by exception may hold H-1 status. (Stanford is a cap-exempt employer, and is not limited in its access to the H-1 program as industry is.)

As a matter of practical expectation, O-1 is probably not a classification suitable outside the faculty and academic staff ranks, whose members are most likely to meet the standard of sustained acclaim for having risen to the top of their field.


Stanford has retained the law firms of Fredrikson (previously known as Fredrikson & Byron) for assistance with O-1 petitions. Fredrikson is the exclusive provider of these legal services to Stanford University, and operates on a fee basis; if the department or employing unit has need of these services, we will need to collect affiliation and account information before processing the referral. The firm works in cooperation with Bechtel International Center and the Office of General Counsel to coordinate the University’s representations to the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services.

There is no provision for employees to initiate their own immigration procedures.

All O-1 undertakings are referred to Fredrikson at the department’s expense. Referral requests need a Workflow transaction—regardless of whether they are initial, extension, or evaluation—approved and in Bechtel's queue. The transaction number is needed for your referral request. See this page for guidance in the Workflow environment.

Once a department or unit has a valid transaction number, they can complete this web form, which will collect account/PTA information . (Assessments are conducted at no charge.) An approved Workflow transaction is needed to complete the form. Referral requests lacking an approved Workflow transaction number will be delayed until the transaction is approved.

If a department’s referral request is approved, the department or unit representative will be given instructions for contacting the attorneys, and the Office of General Counsel will open a matter once the department has contacted Fredrikson & Byron.

Departments and other hiring units are responsible for legal and filing fees for Stanford-sponsored petitions. F&B’s Legal Fee Schedule can be found here. (Be sure to be logged in to a account to review the fee schedule.) Legal fees do not include filing or premium processing fees; these are extra and should be discussed with the attorneys after the point of referral.

Please do not consult the firm outside the context of an approved referral, from Bechtel and/or the Office of General Counsel, for each individual matter you wish referred. You’ll need to complete a new Qualtrics form each time you seek an extension, for example, or want to inquire about a green card for someone who has already been granted an O-1.