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Maintaining O-1 Visa Status

If you would like to extend your O-1 status, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will determine the time you would need to accomplish your work in increments of up to one year.

You must submit proof that your employment is ongoing, and you generally must include updated evidence of your extraordinary ability. A petition requesting an extension must be filed before your current O-1 status ends in order for you to maintain your status and remain on payroll.

If a petition is filed in a timely manner, you will be authorized to continue to work and be paid for up to 240 days after your current O-1 status expires. International travel will not be possible while the extension is pending unless the current O-1 visa is valid.

Once the extension petition is approved by USCIS, if you travel abroad, you may need to visit a U.S. embassy or consulate to get a new O-1 visa before returning to the United States.

Your dependents 

If your employer files a Form I-129 to extend your stay and your spouse or unmarried children under age 21 also want to extend their stay, they need to file a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

Transferring or changing your employer

If you are coming to a Mass General Brigham affiliate from another U.S. employer and are currently in O-1 status, the GPS office will need to file a petition with USCIS representing the change in sponsorship prior to your start date.

You may start your O-1 employment only after an approval notice (Form I-797) has been received.

Leaving to work elsewhere

If you are leaving a Mass General Brigham affiliate to work for another U.S.-based employer, the new employer will need to file a petition with USCIS representing the change in sponsorship.

Your new employer will have to work with you to plan the timing of filing a new petition. This may be necessary even if you are moving from one department or hospital to another within the Mass General Brigham network.

Leaving the United States

When you plan to end your U.S. employment, please be sure to contact your advisor at the GPS office, as well as your department administrator to ensure that your immigration paperwork is handled appropriately.

If you are leaving the United States earlier than expected, please notify GPS so that we may inform USCIS of the change.

There is no automatically defined grace period associated with the O-1 visa. Your status ends when you stop working.

When you entered the United States, you were issued a Form I-94, which indicates the visa status and the length of authorized stay. An O-1 visa holder should have an expiration date on Form I-94 that matches the end date on the O-1 petition. To maintain visa status, you must continue to pursue the intended employment listed on the I-129 petition.

Important details

  • If there are significant changes in employment, you should contact your GPS advisor

  • As an O nonimmigrant, you may be admitted to the United States for an initial period of stay up to three years, plus a period of up to 10 days before your validity period begins and 10 days after your validity period ends. You may only engage in authorized employment during the validity period of the petition

  • You must notify USCIS of all home address changes within 10 days of moving by completing Form AR-11

Travel abroad

If you are an O-1 visa holder and travel outside the United States, you will need the following documents for re-entry:

  • Original Form I-797, O-1 Approval Notice from the USCIS, which is valid for a period beyond your anticipated travel dates

  • Copy of Form I-129, the O-1 visa petition provided by GPS with your approval notice

  • Valid O visa stamp in your passport (Canadian Nationals are visa exempt)

  • Valid passport

  • Employment verification letter

O-3 dependent visa holders will need these documents for re-entry:

  • Original Form I-797, O-3 Approval Notice from the USCIS, or a copy of your I-797, O-1 Approval Notice, which is valid for a period beyond the anticipated travel dates

  • Valid O visa stamp in their passport

  • Valid passport

If you are traveling only to Canada or Mexico for fewer than 30 days, you will not need to obtain a new visa stamp to return to the U.S. To qualify for this “visa revalidation” entry, you:

  • Must be in lawful O-1 status

  • Must have an unexpired I-94 record 

  • Must have a passport valid at least six months into the future from the day you return

  • Must travel only to one of the destinations above and for fewer than 30 days (for example, you cannot use revalidation to enter Canada, depart to another country, return to Canada and then return to the U.S. within 30 days)

  • Must not apply for a visa while in Canada or Mexico (If you apply for a visa while in Canada or Mexico, you must wait for it to be issued before you return. If your visa application is denied, you are not allowed to use "automatic revalidation" to return to the U.S. and must travel to your country of citizenship to apply for a new visa.)

  • Must have a current original I-797 Approval Notice that changes your status to O-1 or extends your O-1 status

  • Must have an O-1 visa (expired or valid) in your passport that matches the immigration status described by your I-94 card. If you have changed your non-immigrant status in the U.S., the visa may correspond to your previous non-immigrant status before the change was granted

  • Cannot be a national of a country designated by the U.S. government as a state sponsor of terrorism

If you are in O-1 status, you must have a valid passport, a valid I-797 Approval Notice, and an I-94 record. If your I-94 record and I-797 are valid for O-1 status and will not expire during your trip, you are eligible to enter the United States again even if your O-1 visa has expired, unless you have applied for a new visa.

In general, no special permission is needed to travel within the continental U.S. However, we recommend you carry your passport and I-94 card when you travel any distance from home.

Frequently asked questions about maintaining O-1 status

O-1 visa holders are only authorized for employment by the organization which sponsors the O-1 petition. Therefore, if you work for more than one employer at the same time, each employer must file a separate petition with USCIS.

If your employment is terminated for reasons other than voluntary resignation, your employer is liable for the reasonable cost of your return transportation to your last place of residence prior to entry into the U.S. The O-1 regulations allow for a discretionary grace period of up to 60 consecutive days following the end of O-1 employment, or until the end of authorized validity period on the O-1 approval notice, whichever is shorter. This 60-day grace period may only apply one time per authorized nonimmigrant validity period.

USCIS regulations state that the approval of a permanent labor certification or filing of a preference petition for permanent residence shall not be a basis for denying an O-1 petition, a request to extend an O-1 petition, or your application for admission, change of status, or extension of stay.

No, you may obtain an O-1 visa even if you are subject to 212(e). However, you would be ineligible to change your J-1 nonimmigrant status in the U.S., and you must travel outside the U.S. to apply for and obtain an O nonimmigrant visa to return for employment. According to the USCIS, a J-1 nonimmigrant in valid status who qualifies as an individual of extraordinary ability, "may (1) have an O-1 nonimmigrant visa petition approved on his or her behalf and (2) proceed abroad and apply for and receive from the State Department an O-1 visa, without first having to fulfill the two-year foreign residence requirement or obtain a waiver thereof."