The O-1 classification is available for individuals of "extraordinary ability," i.e., those who have risen to the top of their field of endeavor, a very high standard. The beneficiary of an O-1 petition may be granted an initial period of stay of up to three years, extended in one-year increments. Currently there is no limit to O-1 stay in the U.S.
1) O-1 RequirementsThe employer's petition must demonstrate to the USCIS that the beneficiary is someone of "extraordinary ability" in his or her field. This may be evidenced by documentation of major awards or prizes, publications, patents, citations to the individual's work, major accomplishments of significance to the field as a whole, letters of reference from other leaders in the field, and any other suitable documentation. There is also a peer group "consultation letter" requirement for O-1 visa petitions. An appropriate "peer group" might be a relevant professional or academic association, an individual with expertise in the employee's field of endeavor, or a trade organization. The peer group or expert must provide a letter supporting (or, at a minimum, stating no objection to) the request for O-1 classification.
2) How soon can I start?Processing times for the O-1 petition vary according to the availability of information needed to prepare the petition, government interruptions and backlogs at USCIS. On average, the O-1 visa petition process will take about 30-60 days, but O-1 petition preparation is typically lengthy due to the documentation requirements.
Individuals who are outside the U.S. must apply for an O-1 visa stamp at a U.S. consular post abroad in order to enter the U.S. in O-1 status. Applicants must bring the O-1 petition approval notice from USCIS to the consular post in order to obtain the O-1 visa.