O-2 Visa, How to Apply

O-2 Visa, How to Apply

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What is an O-2 visa?

An O-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa classification for individuals accompanying and assisting O-1 visa holders in art and athletics.

  • O-1A: O-2 must be an integral part of the O-1A visa holder’s performances or events and possess critical skills and experience that are not of a general nature and that are not possessed by others
  • O-1B: For O-2 accompanying O-1B visa holders, they must possess:
    • Skills and experience that are critical, either based on a pre-existing and long standing working relationship with O-1B, or
    • If in connection with a specific production only, because significant production will take place both inside and outside the U.S. and the continuing participation of the O-2 is essential to the successful completion of the production

To qualify for an O-2 visa, the support personnel must have a substantial and essential working relationship with the O-1 visa holder, and their skills and experience must be integral to the successful execution of the O-1 visa holder’s activities. 

The O-2 visa is not available for individuals who provide general support services; it is specifically for those who have a specialized role and expertise.

Both the O-1 and O-2 visas are temporary and employer-sponsored, and they are typically granted for the duration of the O-1 visa holder’s activities in the U.S. 

The application process for O-2 visas involves filing a petition by the U.S. employer or agent on behalf of the O-2 visa applicant.

O-2 visa requirements

To obtain an O-2 visa, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • Association with O-1 Visa Holder:
      • The O-2 visa applicant must be accompanying and assisting an O-1 visa holder with extraordinary ability or achievement in the fields of arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics.
  • Essential Support Role:
      • The O-2 visa applicant must play an essential and integral role in the successful execution of the O-1 visa holder’s activities or events in the U.S.
  • Specialized Skills or Experience:
      • The support personnel must possess specialized skills or experience that are critical for the completion of the O-1 visa holder’s tasks or projects.
  • Employer Sponsorship:
      • The O-2 visa is employer-sponsored. The U.S. employer or agent must file a petition (Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) on behalf of the O-2 visa applicant.
  • Coordination with O-1 Visa Holder:
      • The O-2 visa petition must include a consultation with a relevant labor union or peer group and a copy of the written contract or summary of the terms of the agreement between the employer and the O-1 visa holder.
  • Proof of Relationship:
    • Documentation demonstrating the nature of the working relationship and previous experience between the O-1 visa holder and the O-2 support personnel should be provided.

What is the difference between an EB-2 and O-2 visa?

The EB-2 (Employment-Based Second Preference) visa and the O-2 visa serve different purposes and are part of distinct immigration categories in the U.S. 

The key differences between the EB-2 and O-2 visas include:

  • Purpose and Category:
      • EB-2 Visa: The EB-2 visa is an employment-based immigrant visa category for individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in their field. It is a permanent residency (green card) category.
      • O-2 Visa: The O-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who provide essential support to O-1 visa holders with extraordinary abilities in the fields of arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. It is a temporary visa.
  • Nature of Stay:
      • EB-2 Visa: The EB-2 visa leads to permanent residency, allowing individuals to live and work permanently in the U.S.
      • O-2 Visa: The O-2 visa is a temporary visa that is typically granted for the duration of the O-1 visa holder’s activities in the U.S.
  • Applicant Eligibility:
      • EB-2 Visa: EB-2 visa applicants must demonstrate advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in their field. This category includes individuals with advanced degrees (such as master’s or higher) or those with exceptional abilities in their profession.
      • O-2 Visa: O-2 visa applicants must be essential support personnel for O-1 visa holders, and they should have specialized skills or experience that are critical for the success of the O-1 visa holder’s activities in the U.S.
  • Application Process:
    • EB-2 Visa: The application process for an EB-2 visa involves a multi-step process, including labor certification (for some cases), filing a Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker), and, for some cases, waiting for visa numbers to become available.
    • O-2 Visa: The O-2 visa application is initiated by the U.S. employer or agent filing a Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) on behalf of the O-2 visa applicant. Labor Certification is not required and an O-2 visa is immediately available for issuance after Form I-129 is approved.

How long can I stay in the US on a O-2 visa?

The duration of stay on an O-2 visa is tied to the duration of the O-1 visa holder’s activities.

The O-2 visa is a temporary visa, and it allows you to stay in the U.S. for the period necessary to complete the specific event, performance, project, or activity for which the O-1 visa holder is admitted.

If there is a need for the O-2 support personnel to stay longer or if there are changes to the O-1 visa holder’s activities, an extension of stay can be requested. 

In such cases, the U.S. employer or agent would need to file a new Form I-129 petition to request an extension before the current period of authorized stay expires.

O-2 visa filing fees

The O-2 visa filing fees include:

  • Form I-129 filing fee: $460
  • Premium Processing Fee (optional): $2,805
  • O-2 visa filing fee (if applicant is outside the U.S. and needs to apply for a visa): $205

Government fees are subject to change, check the latest O-2 visa filing fees:

O-2 visa checklist of required documents

The following documents must be submitted with your O-2 visa application (provide photocopies only):

Required evidence

Examples of acceptable documents

Applicant’s previous immigration documents (if applicable)
  • Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
  • Complete copy of passport (including any previously issued U.S. visas and CBP stamps)
  • USCIS I-797 approval notice(s) for previous nonimmigrant petitions, change/extension of status
  • Previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD), front and back – if applicable
U.S. employer documentation
  • Employment contract and itinerary 
  • Letter of employment 
  • Most recent pay stubs (if applicable) for the previous 3-6 months
  • Detailed information about the U.S. employer, its products, or services
  • Annual report(s)
  • Articles about the employer or company’s products or services
Consultation letter
  • Consultation letter from a union with the  expertise over the activities of the O-2 visa applicant
If accompanying O-1 artist or athlete 
  • Evidence of current essentiality, skills and experience of the applicant 
  • Evidence of prior experience working with the O-1 visa holder
If accompanying O-1B visa holder (motion picture and television)
  • Evidence that significant production work has taken place outside of the U.S. and will continue in the U.S. and that the applicant’s continuing participation is critical to the success of the production

How to apply for an O-2 visa?

The process of applying for an O-2 visa involves the following steps:

Step 1. Download the Form I-129:

Step 2. Gather Supporting Documents:

  • Collect all the necessary supporting documents (see the checklist above). 
  • Unless directed otherwise, submit only photocopies of the documents

Step 3. Complete the Form:

  • Fill out the form accurately and completely. Sign and date the form in ink.
  • Complete the “O and P Classifications Supplement to Form I-129”
  • USCIS does not accept computer-generated or stamped signatures
  • Fill out and submit Form G-1145 to receive an electronic notification containing USCIS receipt number by text message or email

Step 4. Filing fee payment:

  • Check the USCIS website for the most current filing fee
  • If you choose to pay an optional Premium Processing Fee to expedite the review of Form I-129, check the most current Form I-907 filing fee
  • Acceptable forms of payment include: money order, personal check, cashier’s check or credit card payment (fill out Form G-1450)
  • If paying by check, the check must be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Step 5. Mail the Application:

  • Once the form is completed and the supporting documents are gathered, filing fee payment is submitted, mail the entire packet to the correct filing address (“Where to File” section).
  • It’s recommended to mail the application via express mail with a tracking number
  • Make a copy of the completed application for your records

Step 6. Check Application Status:

  • USCIS will mail the receipt notice 2-3 weeks after the submission date
  • You can track the status of your application online by entering the receipt number 

Step 7. Wait for Processing:

  • USCIS will process your application, and if additional information or document is needed, an RFE notice will be mailed to you. Once processed, you will receive a decision on your application by mail.

Step 8. Consular Processing (if applicant is abroad):

  • If the applicant is located abroad, Form DS-160 must be filed with the U.S. Department of State. Applicant will attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, OR
  • If the applicant is already in the US in a different nonimmigrant status, Form I-129 also serves as request for change of status

O-2 visa processing time

It can take anywhere from 1.5 months to 6 months to obtain an O-2 visa:

  • Form I-129 processing time – 1.5 months
  • If applicant is abroad and applying for a visa – 10 days to 4.5 months

To check the most current processing times for an O-2 visa:

  • Visit the USCIS website at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times
  • Select “Form I-129” 
  • Select “O – Extraordinary Ability”
  • Select your service center (the service center processing your application is printed in the lower left corner of Form I-129 receipt notice)
  • If applicant is abroad, check the visa appointment wait time (enter the location of the US Embassy/Consulate in your home country)

Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.

Additionally, USCIS may issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) during the processing of your application, which can add to the overall processing time. 

It’s crucial to respond promptly and thoroughly if you receive an RFE to avoid delays.

If your case is outside the normal processing time, you place an Outside Normal Processing Time e-Request or request assistance from your local congressman’s office.

Family members of O-2 visa holders  

The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of an O-2 visa holder may be eligible for O-3 visas. 

O-3 visa holders are allowed to accompany the primary O-2 visa holder to the U.S. and stay for the same duration as the O-2 visa.

O-3 visa holders are not authorized to work in the U.S.

Related Links:

O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

O-1A Visa, How to Apply

O-1B Visa, How to Apply