O-1 Status

The O-1 Nonimmigrant Classification is designated for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, arts or athletics and individuals of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industries. The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) determines whether an individual qualifies for O-1 visa status. O-1 visas are initially valid for up to 3 years and may be extended in one-year increments, renewable indefinitely.

O-1 Nonimmigrant Petitions are extremely complex and require a substantial amount of supporting documentation to evidence that the beneficiary qualifies as “extraordinary” in his or her field of endeavor. To qualify as an individual of extraordinary ability, a foreign national must show evidence of receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, or at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts in the field.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the applicant’s work.
  • Evidence of participation, on a panel or individually, as the judge of the work of others in the field.
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance to the field.
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence of commanding a high salary or other remuneration for services. This category does not usually apply to academic positions.

In addition to evidence supporting at least three of the factors above, the University of Connecticut requires O-1 beneficiaries to provide at least 6 letters from prominent colleagues in the field who can confirm the beneficiary’s original scientific or scholarly contributions, publications, research and achievements of major significance to the field (letters should be from colleagues outside of the University of Connecticut).

At UConn, prospective employees requesting sponsorship as an O-1 nonimmigrant must first receive approval from their department and school/college dean that they meet UConn’s consideration of “outstanding” to be put forth for O-1 sponsorship. Please note that UConn’s decision to petition for O-1 sponsorship on behalf of a foreign national employee does not guarantee that the foreign national will be deemed “outstanding” or the O-1 petition approved by USCIS. O-1 sponsorship is not a guarantee that a foreign national faculty member will be awarded tenure. For information on the departmental approval process, please contact Lesley Salafia, Office of the General Counsel, at Lesley.salafia@uconn.edu or (860) 486-5796.

The O-1 visa is employer specific, which means that an O-1 petition sponsored by UConn only authorizes the individual to work at UConn in the position specified in the petition. An individual who has an O-1 approval from another employer is not eligible to work at UConn until UConn obtains approval of its own O-1 petition for the beneficiary. An O-1 nonimmigrant may work for more than one employer, but only if each employer obtains separate O-1 petition approval.


Dependent spouse and children of an O-1 nonimmigrant are granted O-3status. Spouse and children in O-3 dependent status may study either full time or part time, but they cannot work under ANY circumstances.