How is O-1 Processing Handled at USC?

O-1 Extraordinary Ability status is used at USC for people with a substantial, sustained record of nationally or internationally recognized career accomplishments, where there are compelling strategic reasons to utilize the O-1 category. How we handle O-1 sponsorship is informed by both Federal regulations and USC’s internal institutional policies and systems.

At USC, all O-1 requests must be submitted by the department to FSVS.  Typically, the initial O-1 petition is prepared by our outside attorneys, after they have determined that the individual qualifies and it is an appropriate category that meets the needs of the person and the department.  Subsequent extensions are processed by FSVS.

The Person Must Qualify for O-1 Status

The initial analysis for qualifying factors will be done by our office and our outside attorneys.

To qualify, the individual must show that he or she has received a major, internationally recognized award (such as the Nobel Prize or the Academy Award).  Alternatively, the individual may demonstrate that they meet at least three of the eight regulatory criteria necessary to show national or international recognition for sustained career accomplishments.

It is important to note that meeting three of the eight criteria will not necessarily guarantee the approval of O-1 visa status.  The reviewing USCIS officer will ultimately decide on a subjective basis whether the individual qualifies.

The USCIS typically sets a high standard for qualifying as a person of extraordinary ability under the O-1 visa.  Applicants should possess substantial documentation showing that their qualifications lift them well above the norm for their field.


  • Initial O-1 status can be granted for up to three years at a time.
  • Subsequent extensions are typically for one year at a time, unless there is a new assignment to a new position.

 O-1 Processing Times at USC

Requests must be submitted by the department to FSVS.

We advise departments to submit to FSVS a full 6 months prior to the needed start date.  Later submissions carry an increasing risk that the need cannot be met.

Total processing time varies, depending on the factors each case presents.

  • Stage 1:  Pre-Filing Processing:  The amount of information and documentation required to prepare an O-1 petition can be daunting.  In cases where letters of recommendation are necessary, this can add to processing time.  A typical initial O-1 petition averages 4-6 months to prepare to file.  Extensions are not as lengthy.
  • Stage 2:  Government Processing:  All USC O-1 cases are submitted via the USCIS Premium Processing Program.  Typically, this takes 15 days.  However, in some cases, the USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE).  This can delay processing, commensurate with the nature of the RFE.
  • Stage 3:  Approval Document Delivery:  The USCIS mails the original approval notice to FSVS, which can take 7-14 days from the time of decision.  If the individual is abroad, the notice must then be sent to them so that they can go to a U.S. Consulate to obtain a visa stamp in their passport and enter the USA in H-1B status.  This can take an additional 2 weeks or more.

Maintaining O-1 Status

  • O-1 employment is limited to what is described on the H-1B petition.  If the person’s employment is changing, or the person is changing employers, a new petition may need to be submitted to the government before the change can take place.
  • Sometimes, a person may work for two O-1 employers if both have been named in the petition or its underlying documentation.  This is especially true in the performing arts.  If there is a question, FSVS can look at the petition to make a determination.
  • O-1 extension requests should be made to FSVS a full 6 months in advance.

Visa Stamps and Traveling as an O-1

O-1 Dependents:  O-3 Status

O-3 status is available for the spouse and children (under 21) of the H-1B visa holder.  This will be discussed at the outset of the case.  Generally, O-3 dependents are not authorized to work.