Nonimmigrant Worker: O-1 Alien of Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 Visa for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability is used for employers to sponsor foreign workers who are recognized as having sustained national or international acclaim for extraordinary ability in their field of endeavor. The O-1 visa is specific to an employer and a department at the university must initiate the petition through the HR Office of Immigration Services.

O-1 Details

Duration of Stay

There is no maximum time limit on the O-1 visa. The first petition may be filed for a period of three years. Thereafter, petitions may be filed in one-year increments. The university may file an O-1 visa petition as early as six months in advance of the begin date of employment. University departments wishing to sponsor an O-1 visa should contact the HR Office of Immigration Services as early as possible. 


Foreign workers who meet the O-1 requirements are generally considered to be in that small percentage who have risen to the very top of their field. Documents to support the petition will vary depending on the field of endeavor. To qualify for O-1 visa status in science, education, business or athletics the individual's extraordinary ability must be evidenced by a nomination for, or receipt of significant national or international award or prize, OR the individual can provide documented evidence of at least three of the following eight "extraordinary ability" criteria:
  • Earned a nationally or internationally recognized award or prize for excellence in the field, e.g., academic prizes or recognitions;
  • Membership in associations in the field for which the classification is sought, which require for membership outstanding achievement, as judged by national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or other media about the individual and related to the individual's work in the field for which the classification is sought;
  • Participation on a panel or as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which the classification is sought;
  • The individual's original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance in the field, e.g., conference proceedings, government-funded or corporate-funded research grants, patents;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field published in professional journals or in other major media;
  • Employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments having a distinguished reputation, e.g., research for the National Science Foundation or Department of Defense research grants; and
  • Commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as proven by contracts or other evidence.


OU departments may pay any business-related expense associated with a worker named in an O-1 petition. Departments are required to pay the return transportation costs for the O-1 nonimmigrant worker if dismissed before the end of the authorized employment period.

All family-related application and petition expenses are considered personal expenses and must be paid by the individual.

Payment of Fees

Costs associated with employer-based fees are not personal in nature. Therefore, such costs are business-related and are allowable on state budgeted funds and CLINOPS accounts. However, funds such as Grant Awards (e.g., National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, etc.), Contracts, and Contribution Accounts, are normally excluded unless specifically allowed by the agency.

Premium processing fees, dependent family fees, or employer internal processing fees are not allowable as direct charges to a federal award. If you have a question on the allowability of costs under a specific grant or contract, please contact the University's Office of Grants & Contracts at 271-2177.

OU Department Petition Fees for Nonimmigrant Worker on USCIS Form I-129

  • Initial, transfer (sequential), change of status petitions: $460 base filing fee
  • Extension of current status with university: $460 base filing fee

USCIS Premium Processing Service

USCIS provides expedited processing for $1,440 in addition to the above fees. University guidelines require departments to provide justification for this cost. Review the University Visa-Petition Fee Payment Policy in the Documents section of this page for more information.

Office of Immigration Services (OIS) Fees

OIS offers immigration services provided by an in-house immigration attorney and administrative staff. These services are currently provided at no charge to the department or participant. OU remains one of the few schools offering these services at no charge. Requests that require expedited attention or do not provide minimum notice to our office may eventually force our office to charge fees.

Grace Period

Effective January 17, 2017, a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each petition validity period is now approved for O-1 classification.  This grace period allows O-1 workers to more readily pursue new employment should they be eligible for other employer-sponsored nonimmigrant classifications or employment in the same classififcation with a new employer. While the O-1 worker will not be authorized for employment during the grace period, it allows more flexibility for those whose employment ceases prior to the end of their current validity period. This grace period also allows US employers to more easily facilitate changes in employment for existing or newly recruited O-1 workers.


Visa applicants should prepare in advance and allow sufficient time for potential delays when applying for visas of any type at a U.S. consular post abroad. Travelers should be aware that the information they post online may be inspected by immigration officials that adjudication requests for immigration benefits, including admission to the U.S.

International visitors and workers on approved visas who travel outside the U.S. must review the following information:

  • Passport - Be sure that your passport is valid at least six months beyond the date of your intended stay in the US. If your passport expires before your US visa does, the US customs inspector will limit your US admission stay to correspond with your passport's expiration date.
  • Visa - Check your visa to make sure it will be unexpired on your anticipated re-entry date. Also, note the number of entries allowed on your visa. Although the visa date may still be valid, you may have used all allowable entries.
  • New Entry Visas - If you will need to obtain a new entry visa, you should notify the OIS office no later than two weeks before your departure date from the U.S. We will provide you with a current employment letter and a petition travel packet. 
  • Petition Verification for Visa Issuance (PIMS Report): The original paper I-797 is no longer accepted for visa issuance. The approved USCIS I-129 petition must now be verified by the consulate or embassy through the online Petition Information Management Service (PIMS). 
    • At a Consulate or Embassy, the online record of your petition is called a PIMS report. 
    • PIMS is an internal government system. Neither the foreign national nor the university has access to PIMS or any way to influence the speed at which a PIMS report is produced.  
    • You may take paper documentation to an embassy or consulate, but they must access an electronic PIMS report before your visa can be granted. This process may cause potential delays in visa issuance.
    • In the case of visa delays, it may be useful for the foreign national to ask the official if the PIMS report has been completed and if the PIMS report shows that the petition has been approved. Having this information can help narrow down the cause for delays.
  • Upon Re-entry to the U.S. - When the immigration inspector stamps your passport upon re-entry into the U.S. be sure to check IMMEDIATELY that the stamp shows your correct immigration status. THIS IS CRITICAL. If the stamp does not match your visa status, you will not be able to resume your position at the university. For example, if you are a J-1 professor and the immigration inspector records a different status for your admission, for example B-2, you will not be eligible to take up your J-1 teaching position. 
  • Readmission Evidence, I-94 Number - Travelers needing evidence of readmission to the U.S. should visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to print or review an I-94 form based on the data that was electronically submitted at your entry. This data includes your I-94 number, which may be needed to prove lawful U.S. entry for benefits providers and other purposes.


U.S. Embassies, Consulates, & Diplomatic Missions
Visa Appointment Check - Find our how soon you can get an appointment for visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.


The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of the primary immigrant or nonimmigrant are considered immediate family members for immigration purposes and are defined as dependents. Many such dependents are eligible for derivative status and may be allowed to apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with USCIS.

As a courtesy, the OIS will include the dependent’s derivative application when filing the university’s petition for the nonimmigrant worker. The nonimmigrant worker is responsible for any accompanying family member’s visa status or subsequent filing fee(s). While every reasonable effort is made to provide you with guidance with job-related immigration concerns, help cannot be provided for personal or family immigration matters and may be further limited by staff resources and institutional priorities.


Scammers Posing as US Law Enforcement are Targeting Chinese Citizens Attending US Academic Institutions for Financial Gain. See more information here.

While many formal restrictions on international travel have been lifted, logistical concerns surrounding flights and quarantine policies, as well as visa operations at numerous U.S. embassies/consulates worldwide, continue to impact overseas travel.

  • Consular Processing: Visa processing in many countries continue to be delayed, with limited visa appointment availability. Third Country National (TCN) visa processing is increasingly limited or has been suspended in certain countries, including Canada and Mexico.   It is strongly advised to schedule a visa appointment prior to departure from the U.S., especially if you will not be processing in/traveling to your Home Country, i.e. a TCN request.  Please use the Department of State Website to better understand processing times at the consulate of your choice. Individual consulate websites will also help you better understand current visa processing procedures at that site, including whether an interview will be required.  First-time applicants for a visa of a given type could be referred for secondary processing resulting in additional delay. For applicants applying for the same category of visa they have held before, this risk is reduced. Remember to consider whether you have any dependent family members that may also require visa processing. 
  • India: Please contact the US Consulate(s) in India for specific information on consular processing which is experiencing significant delays in visa appointment scheduling even for Indian nationals.
  • China: China continues to maintain their Zero Tolerance Policy to COVID-19. Travelers to China may experience a quarantine for a period up to 21 days when entering the country before they can continue on to their final destinations. Travelers have also reported that finding flights into China are hard to come by and, when available, very expensive.
  • Form I-94: An electronic Form I-94 is issued to almost all non-immigrant visa holders during the admission process at the U.S. port of entry. Inspect your Form I-94 carefully each time you enter the US to ensure that you and your family (if applicable) are admitted in the correct status for the full length of your approved status. If either the status or expiration date are incorrect, it may be necessary to take corrective steps to prevent violations of your immigration status and from accumulating time in unlawful presence, which may result in a 3-10 year bar to re-entry into the U.S.
    • Form I-94 at Land Borders: Recently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requested that travelers apply for their Form I-94 and prepay online before arriving at a land border. The announcement also contains travel tips, including pointers on monitoring border wait times and understanding customs and other policies surrounding border travel.
  • General Unpredictability: As the nature of the pandemic and global operations evolve, governments and companies continue to adapt and change their policies to ensure the public health and safety. You should carefully monitor U.S. and foreign Covid-related travel restrictions.   

Consider This

Volunteering and moonlighting refer to activities outside the scope of the foreign national's employment authorization and may not be allowed. Review more information about volunteering and moonlighting


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There are numerous nonimmigrant employment-based visa categories.  In all cases, the foreign national must meet specific requirements related to the occupation for which the employer is petitioning. 

Under no circumstances should the hiring department make any guarantee of sponsorship to a foreign worker for any immigration benefit.  Due to the complexity of employment-based sponsorship, it is impossible for any employer to guarantee that its efforts to secure USCIS employment authorization will be successful.

Foreign workers will be required to follow the New Hire appointment process for employees of OU. Positions that are eligible for sponsorship as a nonimmigrant worker can be found in the OIS University Appointment Eligibility Chart.