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O-1 Visa

The O-1 temporary worker visa status is designated for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, arts, or athletics, as well as individuals with extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television industries. Having extraordinary ability in the field of science, education, business, or athletics is characterized by a level of expertise indicating that you are “one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of your field.” 

The O-1 visa is normally not used for training roles, weekly jobs, or early career roles. An O-1 visa requires employer sponsorship. Only Mass General Brigham-approved attorneys may submit O-1 applications on behalf of the hospitals.

How to qualify

Required documentation:

  • Evidence that you are recognized nationally and internationally as outstanding in your academic field

  • A job offer letter stating what you will be doing and specifying the dates for which work authorization is being requested (no more than three years on initial applications)

  • A written consultation/advisory opinion from a peer group or recognized expert in the field in your area of ability. An example might be a letter(s) of support from a renowned researcher(s) as evidenced by their detailed curriculum vitae and publication list

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary ability, you must show evidence that you received a major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, or at least three (3) of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field

  • Membership in associations in your field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts

  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in your field, in professional journals or other major media

  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about your work

  • Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as the judge of the work of others in your field

  • Evidence in the form of five-six letters from prominent colleagues (domestic and international) who can confirm your original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance to your field

  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation

  • Evidence of high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in the field

How to apply if you are outside the United States

Your potential employer will need to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) before you can apply for the visa. Once the visa petition is approved by USCIS, Form I-797 will be mailed to you for the visa appointment. Application instructions are available on the website of the U.S. Embassy/Consulate to which you will apply. Find Visa processing times

With an O-1 visa, you may be admitted to the United States for an initial period of stay of up to three years, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends. You may only engage in the authorized employment as outlined in the petition during the validity period of the petition.

For O-1 applicants who are J-1s subject to 212(e): if you do not have a waiver of 212(e), you must process the O-1 outside the U.S. You are not eligible to change your visa status from within the U.S.

How to apply if you are already in the U.S.

If you do not plan to leave the United States and you are not subject to 212(e), an application to the Mass General Brigham Office of Global Professionals and Scholars (GPS) must be submitted by your U.S. hospital’s department. GPS will coordinate initiation of the O-1 with approved legal counsel. Your potential employer will need to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (and I-539 for dependents). Once the change of status to O-1 petition has been approved, you may begin the authorized employment (as outlined in the petition) on the effective date. Form I-797 will be mailed to you for completion of the Form I-9 with HR, and for presentation at a visa appointment when you next depart the U.S.  


If your spouse and/or children under age 21 are or plan to accompany you in the U.S., they may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa, subject to the same period of admission and limitations as you. Your spouse and children may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may engage in full-time or part-time study.