Overview of O-1 Status
O-1 visa category: The O-1 category is for persons considered extraordinary in their professional field. This category requires Vanderbilt to provide evidence that the professor or researcher is recognized as extraordinary in the academic, administrative or research field specified in the petition.
Confirming O-1 Eligibility : Before the O-1 data collection and preparation process begins, OIS must determine that the employee is eligible for O-1 classification. In order to do so, the employee must provide these documents:
- A copy of the most recent curriculum vitae (CV);
- A research/professional statement that discusses all research or professional activities and the significance of the work and findings (if any). The research/professional statement is usually 3 - 5 pages in length but can be longer if necessary. We ask that the employee limit it to no more than 10 pages, however. Please note that the statement has to be understood by USCIS officers who are likely not academically trained in the employee's field and likely do not have terminal degrees. That is also true of OIS staff.
We ask that the employee visualize writing the research/professional statement for an audience of high school students (ages 16 - 18) in an honor or gifted program. OIS actually has a roster of high school students from Martin Luther King Magnet High School (MLK Magnet) that we call upon, at times, to read these statements. If the student cannot understand what is written we will send it back to the employee with a request that it be rewritten so that is can be understood by a layman. This will mean that the scientific and/or technical terminology will have to be explained or re-worded but the focus here is to ensure O-1 approval. USCIS will not easily or comfortably approve a filing they cannot understand. Rest assured that if OIS files an O-1, your body of work and expertise are clearly acknowledged and identified. A statement that is readable and clearly understood emphasizes extraordinary ability in the best way possible.
Applying for the O-1 visa: The O-1 visa petition must be filed within the USA with USCIS. The filing will indicate whether the employee will change to O-1 status (if already in the USA in lawful immigration status) or obtain an O-1 visa from a US consulate abroad (if outside the USA). For persons applying at a US consulate, a visa interview is required to review the documentation and confirm O-1 eligibility. Applicants for an O-1 visa will need to schedule an appointment to attend the consular interview. OIS is responsible for the O-1 visa process regardless of whether the petition is for an employee outside or inside the USA.
O-1 Requirements : In order to successfully petition for an O-1 visa, the following must be provided to USCIS:
Evidence that the beneficiary has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least three, and preferably four of the following:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
- Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
- Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
- Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
- Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
- A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
- Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
- Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
Changes in employment and transfers of O-1 status within Vanderbilt : Employees in O-1 status at Vanderbilt should be aware that their current O-1 status only provides work authorization for employment with Vanderbilt in the employment specified in the O-1 petition. Employees in approved O-1 status at Vanderbilt may transfer within Vanderbilt as long as they continue to perform in the same specialized area of expertise. OIS should be contacted prior to any change in employment to review the position change and determine whether federal agency notification is required.
Extension of O-1 status at Vanderbilt: Employees currently in O-1 status at Vanderbilt, who will continue working at our institution, may file for an extension of O-1 status up to six months before the current O-1 expires. In order to ensure uninterrupted employment, it is essential that the O-1 extension filing reaches USCIS before the current O-1 expires so please complete the O-1 Packet and forward it to OIS in a timely manner. Employees needing to extend O-1 status in the United States are encouraged to begin the process well in advance.
OIS contacts employees and departments six months, three months and one month prior to the visa expiration to remind them of the need to file for a visa status extension. Filing the O-1 extension before the current O-1 expires allows for an automatic 240 day extension of O-1 status while in the USA. Employees who travel abroad during the 240 day extension period may have to wait for O-1 approval and obtain a new O-1 visa from a US consulate before returning to the USA to resume employment. In addition, employees who travel abroad after the O-1 extension is approved must obtain an O-1 visa from a USA consulate before returning to the USA to resume employment.
Termination of employment at Vanderbilt while in O-1 Status: Employees in O-1 status at Vanderbilt are permitted to work only at Vanderbilt University. Should additional employment be desired, the new employer must file a petition for concurrent O-1 visa status. Further, if an employee wishes to resign from employment at Vanderbilt and seek employment elsewhere, please contact OIS to discuss options for maintaining status through the change in employment.
Employees should be aware that there is no O-1 status grace period following termination of employment at Vanderbilt. However, upon entering the USA, US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) will provide an I-94 document with an additional ten (10) day grace period to allow for time to depart the USA. Please remember to request the 10 day grace period when being inspected by CBP as it can only be granted by a CBP officer. Employees in O-1 status who are informed of an upcoming termination or lay-off should contact OIS immediately.