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O-1 Worker with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

This information is for the University of Houston hiring departments who have hired or are interested in hiring a nonimmigrant. This information does not constitute legal advice.

The O-1 classification permits U.S. employers to hire foreign professionals (including professors, researchers, and exempt staffl) who can demonstrate extraordinary ability or achievement in their field of endeavor.

In order for a person to obtain O-1 status, the prospective employer must file a petition with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Immigration Specialist receives all official O-1 requests for UH.
The process does not officially start until the Immigration Specialist receives the completed forms and supporting documentation from the hiring department .  Please visit the Request Procedures section for detailed steps for submitting a request to sponsor for an O-1 worker.

Regular processing times (non-expedited) vary throughout the year, but take normally take 2 to 3 months on average. The consular processing time depends upon consular-interview appointment availability and security/clearance checks.  Please note that much of the processing time is beyond the control of the Immigration Specialist and the normal regular processing times are subject to change.

Eligibility for O-1

To qualify, a foreign national with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, education, business, and athletics must meet the following criteria provided by the USCIS:

Evidence that the alien has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or

Evidence of at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized international experts;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the alien and his work in the field for which classification is sought;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought;
  • A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought;
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.


To qualify, a foreign national with extraordinary ability or achievement in the Arts must meet the following criteria provided by the USCIS:

Evidence the alien has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director's Guild Award; or

Evidence of at least three of the following:

  • Performed or will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements;
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications;
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author's authority, expertise and knowledge of the alien's achievements;
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence; or
  • If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien's occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the alien's eligibility.


Duration of O-1

Initial O-1 status may be granted for a period not to exceed three years. O-1 extension may be granted for one year at a time. An employee can hold O-1 status indefinitely.

O-1 Job Description and Requirements

The O-1 is restricted to specific employment conditions.  The department must report proposed changes to these terms to the Immigration Specialist prior to the changes going into effect.  The Immigration Specialist will determine whether it is necessary to amend an approved O-1 petition.

O-1 Filing Fees

UH is responsible for the O-1 fees.  UH is responsible for the premium processing fee if employment of the worker in O-1 status is required before the O-1 petition can be approved under regular processing.

    * Initial O-1 (including change of employer and concurrent job): $530 filing fee.
    * O-1 Extension and/or Amendment: $530 filing fee.

    * Optional Premium Processing fee (expedites the USCIS portion only): $2,805 in addition to any other           fees.

* Fees are subject to change.

** Other fees apply for the consular processing of an approved O-1 petition.

O-1 Employment Start Date

The employment start date for an initial O-1 filing to change the beneficiary's status, change O-1 employer, or concurrent O-1 employment, will be the requested starting date or the date the petition is approved, whichever is later.  When the petition is for the beneficiary coming from abroad, the employment begins on the requested start date or when the beneficiary arrives in the U.S., whichever is later.

Change from One O-1 Employer to Another

The USCIS requires that the petition to work for a new O-1 employer be approved.  Proof of employment at the time of the new O-1 petition filing needs to be submitted.

O-1 Dependents

The spouse and/or children under 21 years of age of an O-1 worker are entitled to the O-3 classification, which grants them lawful stay in the U.S. for the duration of the worker's O-1.  O-3 holders cannot obtain employment in the U.S., but they may attend school.  The filing fee for the O-3 application filed with the USCIS is currently $370 for all dependents included and is subject to change; an $85 biometrics fee may also apply for each dependent.  Additional fees apply when processing the O-3 visa at the consulate.

O-1 Visa Processing

The O-1 visa, which is the document stamped in the passport through a formal application at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, is necessary in order to be able to enter the U.S. and be assigned O-1 status.  The visa application normally requires the scheduling of an appointment ahead of time and presenting consulate-specific forms and supporting documentation, including the O-1 approval notice (Form I-797) issued by the USCIS and a copy of the O-1 petition packet sent to the USCIS.

Volunteering in O-1 Status

O-1 workers may not work for UH without pay.

Change in Terms of O-1 Employment

Any proposed change in the terms of employment of those working pursuant to O-1 must be reported to the Immigration Specialist before the change goes into effect. Changes in title, duties, hours per week/FTE, wage, or place of employment that are considered substantial may require the filing of an application with the Department of Labor and/or a petition with the USCIS. The Immigration Specialist is responsible for evaluating such changes and determining the proper course of action.

Permanent Residency for O-1 Workers

The O-1 classification allows "dual intent," which in immigration terms means that the foreign worker can process a permanent residence application while in the U.S. in O-1 status.  Please visit the Immigrant (Permanent Visa) Worker section for details on permanent residency.