The O-1 nonimmigrant category is for the employment of individual aliens who have achieved and sustained national or international acclaim for extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture, or television industries.

  • Employers are permitted to petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a nonimmigrant to come to the US on a temporary basis to work within his or her area of extraordinary ability or achievement.
  • It also permits family members and, in certain cases, assistants to join the non-immigrant.
  • The hiring departments and the foreign nationals are not authorized to file their own O-1 petitions. 
  • Important Points
    • O-1 status is employer and position specific. This means that an individual in O-1 status is authorized to work only for the employer who sponsored the O-1 petition and may only perform the work described in the petition.
    • Any substantial change in employment, or a change and/or addition of a new employer requires the filing of a new/amended application.
    • The sponsored employee must have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics as demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.
    • A petition for O-1 classification can be filed up to six months before employment begins.
    • The employing department must provide an offer of employment; a non-immigrant may not self-petition.
    • The employing department is responsible for return cost of transportation abroad if the non-immigrant is dismissed before the petition period expires.  
    • The employer is required to inform the Department of Homeland Security in writing of the end of the O-1 employment relationship to make the termination bona fide.  Thus, inform OIP-ISSS of any early terminations or resignations. 
    • The O-1 has an initial period of stay of up to 3 years with one-year extensions thereafter. (Unlike H-1B, there is no maximum cumulative duration limit.)
    • J non-immigrants subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement are eligible for O-1 classification. In order to obtain O-1 status, however, they must apply for the O visa abroad and be admitted to the U.S. in O-1 status (such non-immigrants remain subject to the two-year requirement, however, until it is either waived or satisfied). After obtaining the initial O-1 status, it can be extended within the U.S.
    • The spouse and dependents (unmarried children under 21 years of age) of aliens in O-1 status are eligible for O-3 status. They are subject to the same limitations of stay as the principal O-1. Individuals with O-3 status are not permitted to be employed in the US.
    • The O-1 status allows for “dual intent.”
      • Under the doctrine of dual intent, the fact that a U.S. employer has filed a labor certification, or an individual has filed a permanent residence petition on behalf of the non-immigrant, shall not be a basis for denying the O-1 petition, a request for extension of stay, admission to the US, or change of status for that O-1 non-immigrant.
      • O-1s cannot retain their O-1 status when traveling outside the US while adjustment of status is pending and would need a special travel document for international travel.
  • Penn Outside Legal Counsel Program for O-1 cases
    • Carefully review the Penn Outside Legal Counsel Program for details on the authorized law firms to handle O-1 cases for Penn, the summary of fees, billing, processes, etc. 
    • To initiate the O-1 process for a Penn employee, the department should complete the Aliens of Extraordinary Ability O-1 Request Form, selecting the firm with which it would like to work.
      • The form should be submitted to ISSS. 
      • If the department does not know which firm to choose, they may contact ISSS for more information.
    • ISSS will screen the applications prepared by authorized outside counsel to ensure that each application accurately represents the University.
      • Only the designated firms will be able to represent the University in O-1 cases, unless determined otherwise by ISSS or the Office of General Counsel. 
    • Please note that only ISSS is authorized to sign any immigration-related applications representing the University.
    • General immigration questions should be directed first to ISSS at 215-898-4661. 
    • An attorney on the retained immigration counsel list should be contacted only about a specific matter which he or she has been retained to handle.
    • Penn departments or employees may contact an attorney on the retained counsel list to ask questions about the firm’s services (i.e., experience handling similar cases, the amount of time it typically takes to complete this type of case, language skills, etc.).
  • O-3 Dependents
    • The spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) of the O-1 status holder are eligible for O-3 dependent status.
    • To obtain O-3 status, a dependent must either:
      • apply for an O-3 US Entry Visa at the US Consulate overseas (except Canadian citizens). Upon entry to the US, dependents must present a copy of  O-1 status holder’s I-797 approval notice, passport and his/her O-3 US Entry Visa (accompanied by any supporting documents) at the US Port of Entry in order to gain O-3 status; or
      • apply for a Change of Status in the US.  Meet with an ISSS advisor for further details.
    • O-3 dependents are not eligible to work in the US.
    • O-3 dependents may study in the US, as long as their primary purpose in the US is to accompany the O-1 status holder. The duration of their study depends on the O-1’s period of stay.
    • The duration of the O-1 status holder's program is stated on the I-797 and the I-94. If the O-1 is eligible and applies for an extension of stay, the O-3 dependent may also apply for an extension by filing Form I-539 with the USCIS. This form can be filed concurrently with the O-1's extension or separately, as long as it is before the expiration of O-3 status.
    • A child may not continue to hold O-3 status upon reaching his or her 21st birthday.