Seek more insights? Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

By filling out the form you agree with our Terms and Conditions, GDPR and Cookie Policy.

Overview USA O-1 Visa for Leaders in Digital Technology

Understanding the USA O-1 Visa

What is the USA O-1 Visa? 

The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa designed for individuals who have achieved significant recognition in their field, whether it be in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or the motion picture and television industries. This visa is specifically reserved for those who have demonstrated extraordinary ability and have risen to the top of their profession, either nationally or internationally.

To qualify for the O-1 visa, applicants must provide substantial evidence of their exceptional talent and achievements. This could include awards, published material about their work, or contributions to major projects. The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews this evidence carefully and decides whether the applicant meets the high standards required for O-1 classification.

Due to the strict requirements and high level of research involved, the O-1 visa application process is complex and challenging. As a result, this visa category is not frequently used, despite its potential to bring top-tier talent into the United States. The detailed and stringent nature of the O-1 visa ensures that only those who truly excel in their field can obtain it, making it a prestigious yet difficult visa to acquire.

Eligibility Criteria and Navigating the Application Process

To apply for an O-1 visa, an individual must prove their exceptional ability in the sciences, education, business, arts, athletics, or their exceptional achievement in the motion picture and television industries. Here’s how to qualify:

Show Exceptional Ability:

  • Win a major internationally recognized award, like the Nobel Prize, Olympic medal, Grammy award etc.
  • Provide evidence of at least three of the following:

Qualification Criteria:

  • Prizes or Awards: Receive lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.
  • Association Membership: Be a member of associations in the field that require outstanding achievements, judged by recognized experts.
  • Authorship: Write scholarly articles in the field, published in professional journals or major media.
  • Published Material: Have material published in professional or major trade publications or major media about your work.
  • Judging: Participate on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the field.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Provide five or six letters from prominent colleagues confirming your original contributions of major significance. These letters should also outline the referees' standing in the field.
  • Employment in Key Roles: Show evidence of employment in a critical or essential role for distinguished organizations.
  • High Salary: Command a high salary or other compensation for your services (not usually applicable to academic positions).

O-1 Visa application process: 

1) Petition - The O-1 visa application process starts with completing Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. U.S. employers or agents submit this form to USCIS to demonstrate that the visa applicant meets the government's qualifications for the O-1 visa.

To ensure timely receipt of your visa, submit this form up to a year before the     prospective worker's start date. 

2) Documentary evidence - The O-1 visa requires thorough documentation to demonstrate your exceptional achievements or abilities as per USCIS standards. Alongside the petition, the agent must provide evidence that satisfies at least three of USCIS's specified criteria for extraordinary ability. This evidence may include contracts, salary records, certificates, membership documents, or similar materials.

3) Peer consultation - The consultation must be a written advisory opinion from a peer group or an expert in the applicant's field and is meant to prove that the community in the field of expertise recognizes the applicant's exceptional ability or achievement.

4) Employment contract - A copy of the written contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary must be provided. In certain instances, USCIS may also accept a contract, supported by emails exchanged between the parties, a written summary of the agreement's terms, or any other evidence indicating the existence of an agreement.

After submitting all the requirements, applicant must expect to receive the following documents from the USCIS:

  • A written notice that they have received Form I-129
  • A written notice of their decision 

         There are USCIS 3 possible decisions: 

1) Rejection -  If the USCIS rejects your application, you can apply again or seek for other visa options. 

2) Needs more evidence - In this case, the USCIS will request more evidence, which would require submitting new documents and waiting a bit longer. 

3) Approval - After approval, your next steps depend on your location. 

  • In the U.S. under a different visa: Apply for a change to O-1 status.
  • From your home country: Apply for the O-1 visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

          For consular processing:

  1. Complete Form DS-160 online.
  2. Schedule an interview appointment with the embassy.
  3. Bring printed DS-160 and required documents to the interview.
  4. If successful, your visa will be mailed to you.

              Process time: 

  • Average - 2-3 months
  • Premium - 15 calendar days 


  • Form I-129 - 460$
  • DS-160 - 190$ 
  • Premium processing - 1,410$

Benefits of the USA O-1 Visa

  • Extendable 3 year validity:

An 0-1 Visa allows individuals to stay in the U.S. for a maximum of  3 years. But this period can be extended without limit for 1 year increments depending on the visa holder’s situation.

  • Flexible relationship with green card:

O-1 visa holders can apply for a green card to live in the U.S. permanently.For other types of visas, USCIS might reject applications if they think the person wants to stay in the U.S. forever. People applying for these visas usually need to show that they have a steady home and connections to their own country. O-1 visa holders do not need to prove this.  

  • Privilege to bring family and support people:

O-1 visa holders can bring people to support them in their work activities and events in the U.S. Both O-1 visa holders and their O-2 support staff can bring their immediate family members to the U.S. with an O-3 visa.

  • Fast application process: 

Applying for an O-1 visa can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months, depending on factors like which USCIS office processes your application. In contrast, other visa categories can take up to a year to be processed.

  • The lower number of yearly applications:

The number of O-1 applicants each year is lower than for most other visa categories, so USCIS has not set a limit on the number of O-1 visas issued annually.However, the number of applicants is growing. In the 2015 fiscal year, USCIS issued 13,865 O-1 visas, up from 8,589 in the 2010 fiscal year.

  • High approval rate:

USCIS approves about 80 to 95 percent of O-1 visa applications each year, though approval rates can vary depending on the service center handling the application. 

O-1 Visa Limitations

  • Sponsorship requirement:

To apply for an O-1 visa, you need a sponsor for your petition. USCIS does not allow foreign nationals to submit their applications without an agent.While needing a sponsor is a restriction for O-1 visa applicants, the rules about who can be a sponsor are more flexible compared to other visa categories.

  • Competitive eligibility: 

The main reason why only a small percentage of people qualify for an O-1 visa is its strict eligibility criteria. Achieving "exceptional" status is something that only a few professionals accomplish.

How Tech Nomads can help?

Do you find it hard to showcase and structure your achievements for the USA O-1 Visa application? Or are you uncertain about which experiences USCIs finds most relevant? Tech Nomads has you covered. 

Tech Nomads is a global mobility platform that provides services for international relocation. Established in 2018, Tech Nomads has a track record of successfully relocating talents and teams. Our expertise in adapting to regulatory changes ensures our clients’ satisfaction and success.

To explore your UK relocation options, you may:

Subscribe to our social media platforms to stay up-to-date on global mobility news and opportunities:

You also may like

Learn more about Visas and Destinations on our Online Events

Explore our Events

Book a Call