O-1 Extraordinary Ability

Information and processing procedures

If the Western Michigan University departmental representative or the supervisor of the foreign national has never handled O-1 immigration matters on behalf of the department, contact the WMU immigration officer at (269) 387-5873 for a review of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regulations and processing procedures regarding this immigration status.

Basic requirements and general information

The O-1 nonimmigrant category is for 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. The category permits an employer to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a nonimmigrant to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis to work within the area of extraordinary ability or achievement. It also permits family members and, in certain cases, assistants to join the nonimmigrant.

O-1 applicants must be aware of and comply fully with the following:

  • O-1 status is employer- and position-specific. An individual in O-1 status is authorized only to work 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 or addition of a new employer requires the filing of a new or 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 is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Form I-129 by a WMU-appointed immigration attorney. The Haenicke Institute is the liaison between the immigration attorney and the employing department.
  • The O-1 I-129 petition can be filed up to six months before employment begins.
  • The employing department must provide an offer of employment; a nonimmigrant may not self-petition.
  • The employing department is responsible for return cost of transportation abroad if the nonimmigrant is dismissed before the petition period expires.
  • The O-1 has an initial period of stay up to three years with one-year extensions thereafter (no maximum cumulative duration limit like the H-1B).
  • Nonimmigrants in the J category subject to 212(e), two-year home country physical presence requirement, are eligible for O-1 classification, although such a nonimmigrant is not eligible to change from J to O status within the U.S.; they must apply for an O visa abroad and reenter the U.S. in O-1 status. Although they remain subject to the 212(e) even after the approval of O-1 status, they can legitimately hold O-1 status.
  • The spouse and dependents (unmarried children under 21 years of age) of aliens in O-1 status are eligible for O-3 status subject to the same limitations of stay as their principal O-1. Individuals with O-3 status are not permitted to be employed in the U.S.
  • The O-1 nonimmigrant category 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 nonimmigrant, shall not be a basis for denying the O-1 petition, a request for extension of stay, admission to the United States, or change of status to an O-1 nonimmigrant.
  • Export Control requirements: All O-1A petition requests first require clearance from the WMU Export Control Committee in the Office of the Vice President for Research. Please contact the research office at research-compliance@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8293 for an export control decision. For more information, visit the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Premium processing

Premium processing allows organizations to obtain faster processing of an O-1 petition for a foreign worker. USCIS provides a 15 calendar-day processing time for premium processing. The premium processing fee of $1,410 is in addition to the immigration attorney and filing fees. Contact Immigration Compliance for further details.

O-1 application process

Total processing time for an O-1 petition currently averages between three and 10 months. Once the immigration attorney receives all required documents, the petition is filed.

The O-1 petition process includes the following steps:

  1. Consult with Immigration Compliance to determine whether the O-1 is the best classification to bring the individual to WMU. There may be other options available more suitable to the department’s needs.
  2. Once it has been determined that O-1 is the appropriate status, the hiring department should complete and submit the O-1 request forms and all required supporting documents as outlined in the O-1 application checklist to Immigration Compliance in a timely manner.

Visit the Forms page for the following forms.

  • Certification Regarding Release of Controlled Technology or Technical Data to Foreign Persons in the U.S.
  • Change of Address Notification
  • O-1 Application Checklist
  • O-1 Request Form—Part A (to be completed by hiring department)
  • O-1 Request Form—Part B (to be completed by foreign national)