What are the Current O-1 Processing Times? Overview

“What are the current O-1 processing times?” is an important question that O-1 employers, agents and beneficiaries should consider when deciding whether an O-1 visa is the right choice. Understanding the processing times associated with the O-1 visa is crucial for planning and managing expectations.

General Timeline for O-1 Visa Processing

While individual cases may vary, understanding the general timeline for O-1 visa processing can provide a helpful guideline. The typical steps and estimated processing times are as follows:

  1. Case Preparation: Gathering necessary documentation and evidence can take several weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of the case and the availability of supporting materials.
  2. Regular USCIS Processing: Once the I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and supporting documentation is submitted to USCIS, the processing time can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) workload. Compared to other visas, the wait time for the O-1 visa is relatively short. On average it takes less than 3 months for regular processing.
  3. Premium Processing: For a more certain processing time, USCIS has created a premium processing option. The petitioner may elect this option, using form I-907, at the time of filing the application, or later while the application is pending. The premium processing fee is $2,500, which should be added to the $460, I-129 petition filing fee. USCIS guarantees a response within 15 calendar days from the date the premium processing request is received. USCIS could either: a) issue an approval notice;b) issue a denial notice; c) issue a notice of intent to deny; d) issue a request for evidence; or e) open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation. USCIS may take the same action during regular processing but it would happen much later.
  4. Potential Request For Evidence: If USCIS determines that additional evidence or information is required, it will issue a Request For Evidence (“RFE”). An RFE gives you more time to provide additional evidence. USCIS will likely not be working on you case while an RFE is pending. You can speed up processing by filing a solid application, initially, to avoid receiving an RFE or you can respond to the RFE quickly so that USCIS can resume evaluating your case. Hiring a qualified immigration attorney to prepare and file the application, on your behalf, may help you avoid a RFE or a Notice of Intent to Deny (“NOID)”. When USCIS issues an RFE or a NOID it typically adds a few weeks to the overall processing time.
  5. Consular Processing (if applicable): After USCIS approves the I-129 petition if the O-1 beneficiary is outside the United States, he or she will need to pay a visa application fee and schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. The scheduling and processing timeframes can vary by location. Some U.S. embassies or consulates have short wait times and the next available appoint may only be a few days away.
  6. Change of Status (if applicable): If the O-1 beneficiary is in the United States and is in lawful status (absent extraordinary circumstances), he or she may request a change of status. There are significant backlogs regarding a change of status and it may take a few months or years for USCIS to approve the request. It is important to note that an O-1 beneficiary cannot beginning working in O-1 status until after the change of status application has been approved. It may be faster to travel to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to gain an O-1 visa stamp.

Factors Influencing O-1 Processing Times

Several factors contribute to the processing times of O-1 visa applications. These can vary depending on the workload of (USCIS) and the complexity of individual cases. Key factors to consider include:

  1. Hiring an Immigration Attorney: A qualified immigration attorney is a valuable resource to speed up the processing of an O-1 visa petition. This is because an attorney will know the legal requirements and the documents that are necessary to prove the case.
  2. USCIS’ Workload: The volume of applications received by the USCIS can impact processing times. High application numbers or other external factors may result in longer processing times. Each year, USCIS receives approximately 21,000, I-129 petitions, in the O-1 category.
  3. Completeness and Accuracy of the Petition: Ensuring that all required documents and evidence are properly prepared and submitted can help prevent delays due to USCIS requests for additional information.
  4. Request for Evidence: In some cases, USCIS may issue an RFE seeking further clarification or evidence to support the O-1 visa application. Responding to an RFE promptly and effectively is crucial to avoid further delays.
  5. Consular Processing: If you are requesting an O-1 visa stamp through the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, this requires additional processing time. You may have to prepare for an overseas trip, and encounter flight delays.

Tips for Faster O-1 Visa Processing

To streamline the O-1 visa processing journey, consider the following tips:

  1. Begin Early: Start the application process well in advance to allow ample time for gathering supporting documents and preparing a strong case. The I-129 petition cannot be filed more than one year before the employment start date but should be filed at least 45 days before employment begins.
  2. Engage an Immigration Attorney: Seeking guidance from an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure that the application is thorough, accurate, and meets the USCIS requirements.
  3. Premium Processing: If time is of the essence, consider utilizing the USCIS premium processing service to expedite the review.
  4. Stay Organized: Keep all application materials, correspondence, and important documents organized and readily accessible for efficient response to any USCIS requests or inquiries.
  5. Regularly Check USCIS Updates: Stay informed about USCIS processing times and any changes or updates that may affect your application.

What to do While You Wait?

The O-1 visa process an be a “marathon” rather than a “sprint” and even the most patient individual can be weighed down by the process. However, rather than passively waiting for your O-1 visa, you can utilize this time effectively by engaging in various activities that may enhance your skills, expand your network.

Enhance Your Skills: While waiting for your O-1 visa, consider investing your time in enhancing your skills and knowledge. Identify areas of your expertise that could benefit from further development or improvement. Take online courses, attend workshops, or enroll in relevant training programs that will help you sharpen your skills and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in your field. Demonstrating ongoing professional development can only strengthen your O-1 visa application.

Network and Build Connections: Building a strong professional network is crucial for success in any industry. Use the waiting period to expand your network by attending industry events, conferences, and seminars. Engage with professionals in your field, seek mentorship, and establish meaningful connections. Join relevant online communities or professional networking platforms to interact with like-minded individuals and gain insights into your industry.

Volunteer or Freelance: Consider utilizing your skills and expertise by volunteering for projects or freelancing while you wait for your O-1 visa. Volunteering can help you gain valuable experience, build your portfolio, and contribute to the community. It also showcases your dedication and passion for your field, which can be advantageous when presenting your case for the O-1 visa. Engaging in freelance work allows you to continue working on projects, maintain professional relevance, and generate income.

Personal Projects: Consider undertaking personal projects related to your field of expertise. This could involve writing a research paper, creating a portfolio website, developing a mobile app, or working on a personal blog. These projects not only showcase your skills and passion but also demonstrate your commitment to advancing your career. Personal projects can serve as tangible evidence of your extraordinary abilities, reinforcing your O-1 visa application.

Stay Informed: Stay updated with the latest news and developments in your industry. Follow industry-specific publications, subscribe to relevant newsletters, and join professional forums. Keeping yourself informed about emerging trends, technological advancements, and industry challenges will help you stay ahead of the curve. Demonstrating a deep understanding of your field during your O-1 visa application process can contribute positively to your case.

Visit Family and Friends: The O-1 visa may be granted for up to three years. Depending of the employment agreement between you and your employer, you could be away from your home country for a few years. Although an O-1 visa allows for international travel and multiple trips to the U.S. you may not have much vacation time when you begin working in the U.S. Take the time to visit family and friends and enjoy some of life’s finer moments, while you wait.

How an Immigration Attorney can Help?

If USCIS issued a Request for Evidence, a denial notice or opens a fraud/misrepresentation action, the services of an attorney are critical at this point. A qualified immigration attorney can make the difference in whether your case is approved or denied.

My name is Cheryl Fletcher and I have been practicing immigration law since 2015. We have helped hundreds of applicants in the O-1 visa process get approved for an O-1 visa. If you would like to speak with me for 30-minutes regarding your case, please give us a call at 561-507-5772 or use the button below to book a consultation.

Reach out to us. You’d be glad you did.

Cheryl-Fletcher What Are the Current O-1 Processing Times?