How Long Does It Take to Get an O-1 Visa?

How Long Does It Take to Get an O-1 Visa?

The U.S. O-1 visa is a non-immigrant type of visa which is issued to foreign nationals who have exceptional abilities or achievements in their field, most often in science, education, or the arts. Because there are not that many people who have the extraordinary skills to qualify, it generally takes less time to get an O-1 visa than other visas. If everything is done correctly, it is possible to have your application processed in 2 weeks to 3 months, once everything required is submitted. There is also the possibility of utilizing Premium Processing, which will give you an answer in only 15 days, for a fee of $2,500. You may have to wait longer if you require a consular interview after approval.

However, you need to know which type of O-1 visa to apply for, be able to gather required information, and fill out forms correctly, or your visa will be denied and you will have to go through the process again, causing more delays. To expedite the process and make sure you get things right the first time, it can help to have guidance from an experienced immigration attorney who can make sure everything is done properly, advocate for your rights, and prevent problems that create delays or denials of your visa application.

How to Apply for an O-1 Visa

Applicants for an O-1 visa must be accomplished in their field and have extraordinary abilities or achievements that would not usually be found elsewhere. Depending on your field of expertise, you may apply for either the O-1A or O-1B visa:

O-1A visas. These are for people with extraordinary abilities in the fields of arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. You must be at the top of your field and have expertise that distinguishes you from others.

One way to get approval is having received a major internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize. Another way is to satisfy at least three (3) of the following criteria:

  • You have received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field.
  • You have had membership in associations within your field which require outstanding achievements.
  • There is major published material about you and your work in the field.
  • You have been a judge of the work of others in your field.
  • You have made original contributions of major significance in your field.
  • You have authored scholarly articles in your field.
  • You have done essential work for organizations with a distinguished reputation.
  • You command a high salary.

O-1B visas. These are for people with extraordinary ability in the arts or outstanding achievement in the industry of motion picture or television and are renowned in their field. If you have received a major internationally recognized award in the motion picture or television industry, such as an Oscar, you may be easily granted approval.

Alternatively, O-1B applicants must satisfy at least three (3) of the following criteria:

  • You have performed as a star participant in productions or events with a distinguished reputation.
  • You have achieved national or international recognition for achievements in your field.
  • You have performed in a critical role for organizations with a distinguished reputation, and this is evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • You have a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings, and other reported occupational achievements.
  • You have received significant recognition for your achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or experts in your field.
  • You command a high salary.

For both O-1A and O-1B visas, if these criteria do not apply to your field, you must submit comparable evidence that demonstrates extraordinary ability or achievement in your field.

Filing for the O-1 Visa

O-1 visas are not for people seeking to immigrate to the United States. The purpose is to allow you to work here in your field of expertise for a temporary period of time. You will need to have an employer who needs your services file on your behalf.

The U.S. employer, U.S. agent, or foreign employer through a U.S. agent who needs your services must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. Along with the form, you must submit the required evidence. You must provide evidence demonstrating your extraordinary ability that includes at least three different types of documentation that demonstrates that you meet the relevant standards for classification found in USCIS Policy Manual Volume 2, Part M, Chapter 4. This should be done at least 45 days, but not more than one year, before the date of employment in order to avoid delays.

After the USCIS reviews the petition, they will give your employer/agent the “notice” of their decision. If the decision is positive, then you can begin the application process, as follows:

  1. File Form DS-160. This is an online application form which can be found at the Consular Electronic Application Center website.
  2. Pay the O-1 Visa Fee. The application fee can be paid online or through a bank.
  3. Schedule an Interview at the U.S. Embassy. This can be done online, through ustraveldocs.comif you’re applying from Asia, or if you are applying from other countries.
  4. Gather the Necessary Documents. There are several documents needed for your O-1 visa application, which you must have before the date of your appointment. You will need to submit your passport, the visa fee receipt, a written copy of your employment contract, the notice of decision by the USCIS, and proof of your extraordinary abilities in your field, including a written consultation from someone with expertise in your field. You also need to have a document explaining the activities, dates, and events you will participate in.
  5. Attend the Interview. At your interview, you will have to produce all required documents and answer questions with the visa officer about your qualifications and why it is necessary to come to the U.S. to further your career.

After your interview is completed, you will have to wait for the visa to be processed, and then you will receive a decision. If your application is approved, the O-1 visa is valid for a maximum period of three years. If you need to be in the U.S. longer, your employer or agent will have to submit a new application. With your O-1 visa, you can live in the U.S. and work in your field, and have immediate family members live with you as well.

How Long Does It Take to Get an O-1 Visa?

While the typical processing times for O-1 petitions with United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) range from about 2 weeks to 3 months, this varies based on factors such as the conditions at the consulate or Embassy where you apply and whether everything has been done properly.

An experienced immigration attorney can help you through all steps of this process, including scheduling a consular interview.

Get Help to Speed the Process

While every immigration case is different, there is help available to expedite your O-1 visa — the skilled, experienced immigration lawyers at Carman Fullerton in Lexington, Kentucky. Attorneys Kirby Fullerton and Dan Carman have many years of experience representing clients in immigration cases and can make sure everything is done properly in the shortest time possible. Our compassionate staff and attorneys speak Spanish and accommodate speakers of other languages as well.

Call us today to get started so we can help ensure that your application will be successful and processed in the shortest time possible.


Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton

Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton

Mr. Fullerton’s practice is focused on immigration law. He speaks Spanish, and represents clients in cases before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He began his career practicing criminal defense, and understands how matters in criminal courts can affect a client’s immigration status. [Attorney Bio]