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O-1 work authorization sponsorship is reserved for individuals who are at the top of their field as evidenced by nationally- and internationally-recognized awards, publications, participation on review boards, membership in organizations requiring significant achievement, and employment in essential capacities for prestigious institutions, among other things. Please read more about the evidentiary criteria for the O-1 here and https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-2-part-m-chapter-4. O-1 status is initially valid for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely in one-year increments, as long as you continue to remain at the top of your field by continuing to publish, receive awards, review for journals, and otherwise satisfy the O-1 criteria. 

O-1 sponsorship is generally necessary only in two specific circumstances: either a) you have already spent six years in the US in H-1B status but do not have an approved Form I-140 establishing you on the path to permanent residence, so your H-1B work authorization cannot be extended beyond six years leaving O-1 as the only option, or b) you are currently in J-1 status and are subject to the US Department of State's 212e two-year home residence requirement but have not yet received a waiver of that requirement making you eligible for H-1B status, leaving O-1 as the only option.

PLEASE NOTE: You cannot remain in the US and change status directly from J-1 to O-1 without a J-1 waiver. If you have not received a J-1 waiver, you will need to exit the US, apply for an O-1 visa abroad, and re-enter the US in O-1 status to begin working. This process is known as consular processing. If you receive the waiver "in time" for an O-1 petition to be filed with USCIS before the end of your DS-2019 (or at the very latest, before the end of the 30-day J-1 grace period), you can remain in the US and receive a change of status approval without having to exit and re-enter on a visa. Once your waiver is approved, we can file a petition to change your work authorization status from O-1 to H-1B without you having to exit and re-enter the US.

The Process

If you have exhausted six years of H-1B status, or are awaiting a 212(e) waiver to change status from J-1, IFSIS is happy to explore the possibility of O-1 work authorization on your behalf after consultation with your hiring department. Please review the O-1A Factsheet below and upload all relevant evidence to a Box or Dropbox file as described for IFSIS review. The Factsheet also contains a template recommendation letter for you to review and provide to other practitioners in the field who can attest to your outstanding achievements.

Download O-1A Factsheet (PDF) →

After reviewing the Factsheet thoroughly, you are welcome to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with additional questions or attend IFSIS Office Hours on Zoom any Tuesday or Friday. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the links.

O-1 petition review is a highly subjective process. USCIS is notoriously strict with O-1 petitions and frequently issues Requests for Evidence (RFEs) asking for increasingly detailed information. The better the evidence that you can provide up front, following the instructions on the Factsheet (especially regarding the number and content of the recommendation letters), the better the chances of approval. According to the most recent Q&A from USCIS about O-1 petition RFEs, the rate of approval after an RFE is 74.4%.

If you are a physician seeking O-1 work authorization while waiting for the J-1 waiver process to complete, IFSIS will file H-1B petitions to change your status from O-1 to H-1B as soon as the waiver is finally approved so that the three-year waiver service "clock" can begin toward your eligibility for permanent residence. To conserve institutional resources and avoid duplication of effort, the institution reserves the right to wait as long as feasible for the waiver process to conclude before filing an O-1 petition after weighing internal factors and need.

Retaining Your Own Attorney

If, after reviewing the O-1 Factsheet and letter template, you determine that the O-1 process is too burdensome, you are welcome to retain an outside attorney to help draft the recommendation letters and other evidence necessary for an O-1 petition. The attorneys' fees will be at your own expense. No outside attorney can file O-1 petitions with USCIS on behalf of UAB or HSF, and no outside attorney can enter a Form G-28 on behalf of UAB or HSF. Your supervisor cannot sign USCIS forms. IFSIS will draft and sign all USCIS forms (i.e., Form I-129 and Form I-907) and obtain filing fee checks from the institution prior to filing, and IFSIS will review all evidence and letters and file the petition directly with USCIS. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions prior to engaging your own attorney. 

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