How to get an "O-1 Visa" in California

O-1 visas permit foreigners to take a temporary job in California if they have an "extraordinary ability" in either:

  • the arts, movies or TV, or
  • sciences, education, business and athletics

In California, O-1 visas are common for foreign film actors, athletes, visiting professors, and technology executives.

O-1 visas usually last no longer than three (3) years. And the O-1 visa-holder's spouse and unmarried children (under age 21) may be able to come to the U.S. as well.

In this article, our California "O-1 Visa" attorneys discuss "extraordinary ability" visas in California. Click on a question to jump to the answer.

O-1 visas are issued to the "best of the best" foreigners who have demonstrated extraordinary abilities.

1. What is an O-1 visa?

O-1 visas are non-immigrant employment visas issued to foreigners with "extraordinary abilities." Foreigners granted O-1 visas may temporarily reside in the U.S. to work at a job or an event. 

There are two types of O-1 visas:

  1. O-1A visas: for foreigners in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
  2. O-1B visas: for foreigners in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry

O-1 visas differ from EB-1(A) visas in two main ways. One, foreigners with EB-1(A) visas may seek permanent residency, whereas O-1 visa-holders are expected to leave the U.S. once the job is over. Two, EB-1(A) visa applicants do not need to have a U.S. employer, whereas O-1 visa applicants do.

2. What proof do I need to get an O-1 visa?

Examples of evidence that an O-1 visa applicant has sufficient "extraordinary abilities" are:

  • Degrees
  • Awards
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Letters of recommendation by peers
  • Publications

3. What is the application process for an O-1 visa?

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The U.S. employer submits an I-129 Form to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. And the foreigner submits an "advisory opinion" written by his/her peer group corroborating that he/she is qualified for an O-1 visa.

4. How soon can I get an O-1 visa?

It varies. It is recommended that the I-129 form is filed no later than 45 days before the job's start date.

5. What is the fee for an O-1 visa?

The cost of an O-1 visa is $190. The U.S. employer typically covers this expense.

6. When do O-1 visas expire?

It depends on the visa holder's specific job. The maximum time frame is three (3) years, though the visa-holder may apply for one (1) year extensions.

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7. Can my family come with me to California on an O-1 visa?

Only the O-1 visa holder's spouse and unmarried children under age 21 are eligible for an O-3 visa to come to the U.S.

8. Can I leave the U.S. on an O-1 visa?

Foreigners with O-1 visas are not required to stay on U.S. soil. But they should make sure to bring all of their documentation with them to show Customs and Border Patrol upon reentry.

9. Can I go to school on an O-1 visa?

Foreigners with O-1 visas may study part-time.

Call a California immigration attorney...

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If you are seeking an O-1 visa in California or another immigration service, call us for a free consultation at (855) LAWFIRM. Our California immigration attorneys are here to help.

Go to our California visa main page.

Learn about O visas in Nevada.

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