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Sponsoring O-1 Employment

STEP 1: UH job offer

STEP 2: Determine O-1 eligibility

STEP 3: Prepare O-1 petition request

STEP 4: O-1 petition completion

STEP 5: Mailing and payment of USCIS fees

STEP 6: O-1 petition adjudication

STEP 7: O-1 entry to the U.S. (applicable only if O-1 status must be acquired by entering the U.S. from abroad)

STEP 1: 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 an indivdual or if he/she hasn't accepted a job offer, UH cannot file an O-1 petition on the person's 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. The O-1 classification may be an option for work authorization if the eligibility requirements are met.

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: Determine O-1 eligibility [top]

The individual must gather and provide documentation of his/her sustained national or international acclaim in
the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. 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 a degree 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 5-8 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 showing 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 showing 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, we may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary's eligibility.

STEP 3: Prepare O-1 petition request [top]

After determining that O-1 classification is appropriate, the department should begin the O-1 request process. All types of O-1 requests must be submitted to FSIS no later than 45 days prior to the requested O-1 start date. Submission of a late request may result in an O-1 beneficiary's inability to start working on time or even the loss of his/her legal immigration status in the U.S.

The O-1 request process is as follows:

FIRST, the UH department works with the O-1 beneficiary to obtain necessary information and documentation for the request. The department should complete/gather their portion of the following documents for the O-1 request:

  • O-1 Request Form
  • O-1 Information Form
  • Supporting documents (see checklist on O-1 Request Form)
    • Export controls certification: The O-1 employee's direct supervisor must complete the UH Office of Export Controls' I-129 Certification Decision Tree. After the supervisor completes the decision tree by answering several questions, he/she should print a hard copy of the resulting PDF form, complete items #1 and #2 on the form, and sign in the "PI/Supervisor" blank. The dean or director of the college/school/unit must also sign the form. Attach the completed form as one of the supporting documents in the O-1 request packet.

SECOND, the department forwards the O-1 request documents to the Administrative/Personnel Officer (AO/PO) for the college/school/unit.

THIRD, the AO/PO reviews the request, attaches additional documents, and sends the complete O-1 request to FSIS, Attn: Isis/Signe, PSB 102-106.


  • Petitions for O-1 extension, changes of status, amendment, and change of employer must be received by USCIS no later than the business day on or before the employee’s current status end date. If USCIS receives these types of O-1 petitions late, the person will no longer be in valid status and may begin accruing unlawful presence.
  • The department should ask the O-1 beneficiary if he/she is:
    • An F-1 student whose F-1/OPT end date will occur more than 60 days prior to the intended O-1 start date; or
    • A J-1 exchange visitor whose program will end more than 30 days prior to the intended O-1 start date; or
    • Subject to the 2-year home country residence stemming from current/prior J-1 or J-2 status and has not fulfilled or received a waiver of the requirement. In this case, the person is not immediately eligible for a change of status to O-1. To acquire O-1 status, he/she must leave the U.S., wait for the O-1 petition to be approved by USCIS, obtain an O-1 entry visa from a U.S embassy or consulate, and then enter the U.S. in O-1 status.
  • The department should ask the O-1 beneficiary whether he/she has any family members who require an O-3 change of status or extension.
  • UH can request up to 3-year periods on an initial O-1 petition and up to 1-year periods on subsequent extensions. If the person is involuntarily terminated prior to the O-1 authorization end date, the college/school/unit/department is responsible for paying the reasonable costs of return transportation to the person’s last place of foreign residence.
  • UH can submit a petition to USCIS up to 1 year prior to the intended O-1 start date.

STEP 4: O-1 petition completion [top]

Once FSIS receives the request from the AO/PO, we will send an export compliance review request to the UH Export Compliance Officer. The Export Compliance Officer will contact the employee's PI/supervisor directly for more information to make a determination on the export compliance issue.

After receiving an approval recommendation from the UH Export Compliance Officer, FSIS will complete the O-1 petition by preparing or obtaining the following documents:

  • USCIS Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker & O Supplement
  • Written advisory opinion from the appropriate consulting entity
  • Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service (if applicable)
  • Revised Form I-539 (if applicable)

FSIS will notify the AO/PO that the petition is ready and include a memo explaining the payment of fees and proper USCIS mailing addresses.

STEP 5: Mailing and payment of USCIS fees [top]

After the AO/PO receives the O-1 petition from FSIS, the department should attach the filing fees to the petition and mail the petition and fees to USCIS.

STEP 6: O-1 petition adjudication [top]

USCIS receipt

When the petition and filing fees arrive at USCIS, USCIS will issue a receipt notice to FSIS as long as the O-1 petition is properly and timely filed.

  • 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), the O-1 beneficiary should not leave the U.S. until the petition is approved by USCIS. If he/she leaves the U.S. while a change of status petition is pending with USCIS, the change of status will be abandoned. Departments should find out whether an O-1 beneficiary will need to travel abroad while the petition is pending before the petition is sent to USCIS.
  • Concurrent O-1 employment or change of O-1 employer: UH employment may not begin until USCIS approves the O-1 petition.
  • O-1 amendment: Changes to O-1 employment may not take place until USCIS approves the O-1 petition.
  • O-1 extension: The employee may continue working after FSIS receives the USCIS receipt notice for up to 240 days from the O-1 end date. The department can use a copy of the USCIS receipt notice to show employment eligibility while the petition is pending. Departments should use the USCIS receipt notice, rather than the courier’s delivery confirmation, to show employment eligibility. Even if delivery was timely, USCIS may later reject the petition. Rejected petitions are not considered “filed” with USCIS.

USCIS processing time

Adjudication time at USCIS will differ depending on the type of processing requested:

  • Regular Processing: Takes 2-4 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.

USCIS approval

Once the petition is approved, USCIS will send an O-1 approval notice (Form I-797 Notice of Action) to FSIS. FSIS will transmit the following documents to the AO/PO:

  • Memo to the employee (the information provided in this memo will differ depending on the type of petition that was filed on the employee’s behalf)
  • Original O-1 approval notice: The original bottom portion should be given to the employee, who should keep it in his/her passport. The original top portion of the notice, which is the employer's copy, will be kept in FSIS files.
  • Contact Information Form (only for new O-1 employees)

Depending on the type of O-1 petition that was filed, action that must be taken after the O-1 approval notice is issued will differ:

  • Entry in O-1 status: The O-1 must enter the U.S. from abroad in order to begin O-1 employment. See “STEP 7: Employee enters the U.S. in O-1 status” (below) for more information.
  • Change of status to O-1: O-1 status will automatically begin upon the O-1 approval notice start date. The person does not need to leave and reenter the U.S. to begin O-1 employment.
  • Concurrent O-1 employment, change of O-1 employer, O-1 amendment, or O-1 extension: O-1 status will automatically continue upon the O-1 approval notice start date. The person does not need to leave and reenter the U.S. to continue O-1 employment.

If an O-1 beneficiary cannot begin employment at UH for any reason, the department must notify FSIS immediately.

STEP 7: O-1 entry to the U.S. [top]

If the O-1 employee is in another country, he/she will need to enter the U.S. to begin O-1 employment. The UH department should send the necessary documents to the individual to assist him/her with entering the U.S. in O-1 status.

After the O-1 petition is approved:

FIRST, the employee should 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.) He/she should generally apply at the U.S. embassy/consulate having jurisdiction over his/her place of residence. Although he/she may apply at any U.S. embassy/consulate, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of citizenship or permanent residence. If he/she has ever overstayed a visa in the U.S., he/she must apply for any new visas at a consular office in his/her country of nationality.

  • Check the U.S. Department of State's U.S. embassies and consulates website for visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview. O-1 visa application requirements differ by embassy/consulate, so the O-1 must check directly with the specific U.S. embassy/consulate on the requirements for the visa application.
  • Dependents: If unmarried children under 21 and/or a spouse will accompany the person as O-3 dependents, they will need to apply for O-3 visas. Family members will need to show evidence of their relationship to the O-1 employee; the spouse should bring their marriage certificate and each child’s birth certificate to the visa interview.

SECOND, the O-1 and any O-3s shoudl apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry. They can enter the U.S. in O status up to 10 days prior to the O-1 approval notice start date and must bring the following items to the port of entry:

  • Valid O-1 approval notice
  • Valid O-1 entry 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 passport will expire before the O-1 approval notice end date, he/she 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)
  • Employment confirmation letter from UH department

Also bring the following items to the port of entry for each accompanying O-3 dependent:

  • O-3 entry 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 each O-3 child

Visas and/or petition approval notices do not guarantee entry to the U.S. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry will review all immigration documents and ask questions about the planned stay. These officers have the discretion to admit employees in O-1 status and family members in O-3 status and may refer them to a more detailed secondary inspection.

When admitted into the U.S., the O-1 and O-3 family members should have their documents returned to them. They should each receive an admission date stamp with the notations “O-1” (principal O-1 worker) or “O-3” (dependents) and a date indicating the period they are authorized to remain in the U.S. in their passports. They also should receive instructions on printing their own I-94 arrival record on CBP's I-94 website. The admission stamp with notations and the I-94 printout function as proof of admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. In some cases, a paper I-94 may be issued at entry, but CBP is phasing out this process. If any person is issued a paper I-94, that card is evidence of his/her legal status in the U.S.

O-1 employees and O-3 family members should keep copies of all approval notices, passport biodata/expiration pages, visas, admission stamps, and I-94 records permanently in case any of the documents are lost or stolen.

After the O-1 employee arrives in the U.S., the following O-1 documents should be sent to FSIS so we can update our records and check that he/she was admitted properly at the port of entry:

  1. Completed Contact Information Form
  2. Top portion of the original O-1 approval notice (if borrowed)
  3. Copy of I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
  4. Copy of admission stamp with notations in passport
  5. Copy of entry visa in passport (if applicable)
  6. Copy of passport biodata and expiration page (if new)
  7. Copies of #3-6 for each O-3 dependent (if applicable)

The O-1 employee should visit his/her UH department to complete the necessary hiring paperwork.