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How much does an O-1 visa application process cost?

In this article, we focus on the costs associated with applying for an O-1 visa, namely: costs associated with the process and the cost of the services of an immigration lawyer.

Visa applications can be expensive. Although the O-1 visa process is cheaper compared to other visa categories, it’s still essential to know the cost for applying for an O-1 visa.

In this article, we focus on the costs associated with applying for an O-1 visa, namely: costs associated with the process and the cost of the services of an immigration lawyer.

What is the O-1 visa?

The O-1 visa is an employment-based, nonimmigrant visa category. It is for individuals who aspire to work in the United States temporarily.

This category caters explicitly to individuals who are at the top of their respective fields (in contrast to regular employment positions). O-1 visa applicants must possess extraordinary abilities in certain professions which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services places into two subcategories:

  1. O-1A visa. This visa category is for individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics.

  2. O-1B visa. This visa category is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the field of arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

When applying for an O-1 visa, you need to have an employer to petition for you. You cannot petition for yourself. This employer can be replaced during your time in the U.S. as you please, but your first employer will be who sponsors you throughout the application process.

Family members

The O-1 visa gives beneficiaries the privilege of bringing family members to the U.S. under the O-3 visa. This category is for an O-1 holder’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age. While children won’t be allowed to work in the U.S., they may be allowed to study. Processing costs

Form I-129 fee: $460

The first step in most visa applications is to fill up Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker), which costs $460. This document is what petitioners use to reason out to the USCIS why the O-1 visa beneficiary is eligible to stay and work in the U.S.

Your employer must file the O-1 petition with the USCIS within a year before the first day of the beneficiary’s employment. You can avoid delays by following the recommended schedule, which is to file it 45 days before the date of work.

Expenses in obtaining evidentiary documents: Costs may vary

To prove that the applicant has extraordinary abilities and outstanding achievements, they must either possess a one-time international award (such as a Nobel Prize or a Grammy Award) or satisfy at least three criteria in a long list of criteria provided by the USCIS.

Some of these criteria include having a high salary from services related to your expertise, having a nationally or internationally recognized award, being a member of an institution known for a distinguished reputation in the field of endeavor and being featured in major media and trade publications. You must have documents that support the case that you satisfy some of these criteria.

Other evidentiary documents include peer group consultations, employment contracts, and itineraries of activities. Click here to learn more about the requirements for an O-1 visa application.

The cost of obtaining all these files largely depends on the specific documents and how the applicant plans to acquire them. You may need to travel to certain places to produce copies of your files.

DS-160 fee: $190

After the USCIS processes your documents, you will receive two documents: a receipt notice of your petition and a notice of their decision. If they approve your application, your next step depends on whether or not you are already in the U.S.

If you’re in the U.S., all you needed is a status change. Your current visa will automatically change to O-1 status. If your petition is for an actual visa application and you’re not in the U.S. yet, then you will need to go through consular processing.

Consular processing involves setting up an appointment with the U.S. embassy in your home country for a personal interview. You do this by electronically submitting Form DS-160 (Online Visa Processing Form) to the Department of State website. Make sure to bring a copy of DS-160 to your interview. The filing fee for DS-160 costs $190. If your U.S. consulate interview and processing go well, expect to receive your visa soon.

Premium processing fee: $1,440

The processing time for visa applications typically takes months. The O-1 visa process is relatively shorter than most categories, But you will still need to wait 2 to 6 months, depending on which service center processes your case.

The USCIS offers premium processing that can speed your petition up to 15 calendar days. The filing fee for premium processing costs $1,440.

Note that premium processing does not guarantee the approval of your application. USCIS can still either reject your petition or ask for more evidence. If you continued the application and submitted more evidence as they requested, they are no longer compelled to process your case in 15 days. It is advisable to seek help from an immigration lawyer in deciding whether to avail of premium processing or not.

Legal counsel costs

Visa applications will take much of your resources. The O-1 visa, for one, has very technical and subjective standards of eligibility. It is best to consult the  opinion of experts and do the process properly than make mistakes and balloon your expenses in the process.

Immigration attorney fee: Around $5,000

Some lawyers offer their legal counsel at an hourly rate. Most immigration attorneys, however, offer a flat fee for their services. A flat fee allows you to budget better since you already know the price. The price of legal counsel services for O-1 visa applications is typically around $5,000.

However, the complexity of your case may still affect this number. The lawyer’s skill level, experience in immigration law and billing practices may also influence their rate.

Other situational costs

Form I-102 fee: $445

Upon entering the U.S., you are required to complete Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record), which is evaluated by the United States Customs and Border Protection. This document does not cost anything, but you will have to pay if you lose it. File Form I-102 to request a replacement. This document costs $445.

Form I-539 (visa extension or nonimmigrant status change) fee: $370

An O-1 visa has a maximum length of validity of three years. You can extend this depending on your case.

Extending an O-1 visa will require you to file another Form I-129, which costs $460. The USCIS decides whether or not you are eligible for an O-1 visa extension. You must prove in your new petition that your event in the U.S., whether it may be a film or a research project, will need more time. The USCIS can extend your work visa in one-year increments.

As an O-1 visa holder, you are also entitled to bring your family to the U.S. using the O-3 visa category. They will most probably need to apply for visa extensions, too, if you extend your O-1 visa. Instead of Form I-129, O-3 visa holders will need to file Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), which has a filing fee of $370. This document is also needed to apply for a status change.

Form I-129 (change in employers or materials) fee: $460

You can change employers while under an O-1 visa, but you will have to file and pay for another Form I-129. Your new employer must be the one who will submit this new petition to the USCIS.

Likewise, if your job undergoes any form of “material change,” your employer will also need to file a new O-1 visa petition. Material changes can be anything from promotion or demotions to raises and location changes.

Finally, if you get terminated from your job for reasons except for resignation, your employer must be the one to take care of your travel fees back to your home country. They must pay for the expenses until you reach your last residence before you transferred to the U.S. for work.

Form of payment

The USCIS requires applicants to pay for the O-1 application process fees via money order or a cashier’s check.

The general recommendation is to pay for the fees separately, with individual checks or money orders. Paying the fees collectively might cause logistical problems during the processing. It is best to consult your immigration lawyer regarding which payment method is best to use for your case.

Refunds

Under normal circumstances, USCIS does not allow applicants to withdraw what they have already paid for. But there are a few situations that may happen during an O-1 application process that compels them to offer a refund:

  • If the USCIS has asked you for an unnecessary form that required a fee

  • If the USCIS has asked for a fee payment higher than that the amount they stated on their website

  • If the USCIS fails to process your I-129 petition within 15 calendar days after you pay for the premium processing fee

The takeaway

A regular O-1 visa application process costs a little more than $650, which includes the petition form and the consular application. If you want it expedited, add $1440, which will now make your total visa fees amount to around $2,090. Finally, add $370 for every family member who needs to have an O-3 visa.

If you want to check how much you might spend, USCIS’s website has an online tool that can help you calculate your fees. Check it out here.

For other tips on how to navigate your life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library.

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More from Nova Credit:

The ultimate guide to the O-1 visa

Everything you need to know about the O-2 visa

All about the requirements for getting an O-1 visa

How to transition from an O-1 visa to an EB-1 green card visa

H-1B vs O-1 visa: Which should I choose?

How to get an O-1 visa extension