Obtaining O-1 Status
STEP 1: Acceptance of a UH job offer
STEP 2: Determination of O-1 eligibility
STEP 3: Preparation of the O-1 petition
STEP 4: USCIS processing
STEP 5: Entering the U.S. in O-1 status (applicable only if entering the U.S. to obtain O-1 status)
STEP 1: Acceptance of a UH job offer [top]
UH can only file an O-1 petition on a foreign national’s behalf if the individual has accepted a job offer from a UH department (i.e. an employment relationship exists between the UH department and the foreign national) in a position that requires the O-1 to utilize the extraordinary ability. If no such job offer has been extended to you or if you have received a job offer but have not accepted it, UH cannot file an O-1 petition on your behalf.
Once a UH department enters into an employment agreement with a foreign national, the department must determine whether he/she is eligible to work in the U.S. If he/she does not already have employment authorization that will allow him/her to work at UH, he/she will need the proper authorization before employment can begin.
NOTE: UH does not classify stipend recipients (e.g. post-doctoral fellows) as employees. This means UH cannot seek O-1 classification for foreign
nationals coming to UH as stipend recipients. Instead, the J-1 Exchange Visitor classification may be the most appropriate immigration status for such appointments.
STEP 2: Determination of O-1 eligibility [top]
The individual must be able to provide documentation of sustained national or international acclaim in his/her field. Acceptable documentation of such acclaim includes:
Evidence of receipt of a major internationally recognized award (e.g. Nobel Prize)
Evidence in at least 3 of the 8 categories below:
- (1) Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor.
- Include copies of award certificates and letters.
- Document the origin, purpose, significance, and scope of each award AND the criteria used to nominate and judge the participants and award winners.
- Include evidence identifying previous winners for the past 3-5 years.
- Academic awards received while pursuing his/her education are not considered to be nationally or internationally recognized prizes, but are limited to the individual school making the awards.
- (2) Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields.
- Include copies of membership certificates or letters from associations.
- Document the minimum requirements and criteria used to apply for membership in the association.
- Include evidence listing the number of current members, the beneficiary’s rank compared to other members in the association, the status held by the association in the international community in the field, and other conditions or requirements of membership.
- (3) Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the individual, relating to the individual's work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation.
- Include copies of cover pages of publications & other pages where the scholar’s name appears.
- Document the significance of the published material submitted about the scholar’s work and how it has set him/her apart from others in the field as one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of their field. The reference should name the beneficiary and discuss the work.
- Indicate the publication’s name; if it has local, national or international circulation; how often it is printed; and the number of copies printed.
- Mere citations will not suffice for this category of evidence.
- (4) Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought.
- Include evidence establishing the significance of the work judged by the beneficiary and the criteria used to choose the beneficiary as a judge.
- If scholar is on an editorial board, include copies of lists of editors with scholar’s name on the lists to show participation on a panel.
- If scholar has peer reviewed for professional journals, judged papers, served on conference selection panels, etc., include letters acknowledging the service.
- Other acceptable documentation includes letters from individuals who are knowledgeable about the circumstances in which the scholar judged or reviewed the work of others in the field (e.g. letter from a professional journal’s editor explaining why he/she consistently asks the scholar to peer review manuscripts.)
- (5) Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.
- Include recommendation letters from recognized experts in the scholar's academic field and/or copies of patents or other recognition of a contribution or achievement.
Letters must explain the scholar's employment experience and original scientific or scholarly contributions AND establish why his/her work is considered original AND how it has made a significant contribution to the field compared to all others in the field.
- At least one letter must be from outside the U.S.
- Only 1 or 2 of the letters should be written by experts at UH.
- Letters should be addressed “To Whom It May Concern.”
- Letters must include a description of the writer’s expertise and explanation of how the expert knows the scholar.
- Include any other evidence establishing original scientific, scholarly contributions.
- (6) Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
- Include a list of the scholar’s publications and copies of the cover pages, table of contents, and/or title page of selected publications, particularly those where scholar's name is listed first.
- Include evidence to establish the significance and importance of the individual’s scholarly articles in the field.
- Include evidence establishing the significance and importance of the professional or major trade publications or other major media that have published the individual’s scholarly articles; the quality and distribution of the publication matters.
- Document the publication’s circulation (local, national, or international), how often it is printed, and the number of copies printed.
- (7) Evidence that the individual has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
- Submit affidavits written by present and former employers (executed by an officer or responsible person employed where the work was performed) describing the nature of the individual’s achievements and certifying the employment of the individual in a critical or essential capacity.
- Document the distinguished reputation of the organization.
- (8) Evidence that the individual has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other payment for services evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.
- Provide copies of contracts or other reliable evidence that clearly establish that the individual has commanded a high salary or other significantly high payment for services compared to others in the field for a sustained period.
- Also include a statistical comparison of salaries in the field from the Economic Research Institute or similar organization.
If the above criteria do not readily apply to the beneficiary's occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary's eligibility.
STEP 3: Preparation of the O-1 petition [top]
After determining that O-1 classification is proper, your UH department will prepare an O-1 request. Your department will require information and documentation from you to prepare this request.
Please inform your UH department if any of the following situations apply to you:
- You are currently in F-1 status with a graduation date or F-1 status/OPT end date that will occur more than 60 days prior to your intended O-1 start date.
- You are currently in J-1 status with a program end date that will occur more than 30 days prior to your intended O-1 start date.
- You are subject to the 2-year home country residence stemming from J-1 or J-2 status and have not fulfilled or received a waiver of the requirement. In this case, you are not eligible for a change of status to O-1. Instead, you must leave the U.S., wait for the O-1 petition to be approved, obtain an O-1 visa, and then enter the U.S. in O-1 status.
Your UH department will forward the O-1 request to the
college/school/unit’s Administrative/Personnel Officer (AO/PO), who
will review the request and forward it to FSIS. FSIS will prepare the
O-1 petition and return it to the AO/PO along with a memo with
instructions regarding the payment of fees and proper USCIS mailing addresses.
STEP 4: USCIS processing [top]
USCIS will mail a receipt notice to FSIS if the O-1 petition is properly and timely filed.
Petitions for change of status to O-1: If UH is filing a petition for a change of status to O-1 from another nonimmigrant status (e.g. H-1B, J-1), you should not leave the U.S. until the petition is approved by USCIS. If you leave the U.S. while a change of status petition is pending with USCIS, your change of status will be considered abandoned. If you know you will need to travel abroad while your petition is pending, be sure to notify your UH department and FSIS BEFORE the petition is sent to USCIS.
Petitions for concurrent O-1 employment or change of O-1 employer: You may not begin UH employment until USCIS approves the O-1 petition.
USCIS processing time
- Regular Processing: Normally takes 2-3 months on average.
- Premium Processing: USCIS will act on the petition (i.e. approval, denial, or a request for more evidence) within 15 calendar days of receipt. This service is available for an additional fee.
See the USCIS Case Status Service website to check the status of pending petitions and to see average processing times.
When the petition is approved, USCIS will send an O-1 approval notice (Form I-797 Notice of Action) to FSIS. The original bottom portion of the approval notice belongs to you and should be kept in your passport. FSIS will keep the original top portion of the notice, which is the employer’s copy. FSIS will notify the AO/PO/contact when the approval notice has arrived.
Petitions for initial entry in O-1 status: You must enter the U.S. from abroad in order to begin your O-1 period. See “STEP 5: Entering the U.S. in O-1 status” (below) for more information.
Petitions for concurrent O-1 employment or change of O-1 employer: O-1 status will automatically continue upon the O-1 approval notice start date. You do not need to leave the U.S. and reenter to begin your UH O-1 period.
If you cannot begin employment at UH for any reason, you must notify your UH department immediately.
STEP 5: Entering the U.S. in O-1 status [top]
If you are currently outside the U.S., you will need to enter the U.S. to begin your O-1 period. Your UH department will mail you the O-1 approval notice and other documents to assist you with entering the U.S.
After you receive the O-1 approval notice from your UH department:
FIRST, apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (Canadian passport-holders can skip this step and go to the second step, below.) You should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction over your place of residence. Although you may apply at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside your country of citizenship or permanent residence. If you ever previously overstayed your authorized period of stay in the U.S., you must apply for any new visas at a consular office in your country of nationality.
- Check the U.S. Department of State Embassy and Consulate website for visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview. O-1 visa application requirements differ by embassy/consulate, so you must check with the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the requirements for your visa application.
- Dependents: If your unmarried children under 21 and/or your spouse will accompany you as your O-3 dependents, they will need to apply for O-3 visas. Your family members will need to show evidence of their relationship to you; your spouse should bring your marriage certificate and each child’s birth certificate to the visa interview.
SECOND, apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry. You can enter the U.S. in O-1 status up to 10 days prior to the O-1 approval notice start date. Bring the following items to the port of entry:
- Valid O-1 approval notice
- Valid O-1 visa in passport (N/A for Canadian passport-holders)
- Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the O-1 approval notice end date (if your passport will expire before the O-1 approval notice end date, you will be granted a shorter period of stay than is printed on the approval notice, so it is best to renew your passport before entry)
- Employment confirmation letter from your UH department
Also bring the following items to the port of entry for each O-3 dependent who is accompanying you:
- O-3 visa in passport (N/A for Canadian passport-holders)
- Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the O-1 approval notice end date (if a passport will expire before the O-1 approval notice end date, that person will be granted a shorter period of stay than is printed on the approval notice, so it is best to renew the passport before entry)
- Copy of marriage certificate (for O-3 spouse)
- Copy of birth certificate (for O-3 child)
Please note that visas and/or approval notices will not guarantee you entry to the U.S. The immigration inspector at the port of entry has the final discretion to admit you in O-1 status and your family members in O-3 status. The inspector will issue you and each family member an I-94 card which will note the period of authorized stay in O-1 or O-3 status.
After you arrive in Hawaii, see your UH department to complete the necessary employment paperwork. Your UH department will need to see certain immigration documents to process your employment paperwork.
Please also remember to send the following documents to FSIS so we can update our files and check that you were properly admitted to the U.S.:
- Completed Contact Information Form
- Top portion of the original O-1 approval notice
- Copy of both sides of your I-94 card
- Copy of O-1 visa in your passport (if applicable)
- Copies of both sides of each O-3 dependent’s I-94 card (if applicable)
- Copies of each dependent’s O-3 visa in passport (if applicable)
- Copies of O-1's and each O-3's passport biodata/expiration page