University of California, Riverside

International Students and Scholars Office

O-1 Visa

The O-1 visa was created for highly talented or acclaimed scholars of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business and athletics.

Extraordinary Defined

For O-1 purposes, the "extraordinary" standard is defined differently, depending upon the foreign national’s field of expertise.  For foreign nationals in science, education, business and athletics, the term "extraordinary ability" is defined as a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentages of professionals who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor.

Note: J-1 visa holders subject to the 2-year foreign residency requirement can obtain an O-1 visa, if they qualify for the visa. Without being required to obtain a waiver of the 2-year foreign residency requirement.  However, a waiver must be obtained before an O-1 visa holder can apply for permanent residency.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary ability the scholar must show evidence of receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize or at least three of the following:  It is also possible to qualify for O-1 visa status by meeting other very specific requirements outlined by the USCIS

  • 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 in the form of 5 or 6 letters from prominent colleagues who can confirm the applicant's original scientific or scholarly 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 compensation for services. This category does not usually apply to academic positions.


  • O-1 visas are approved for the time necessary to complete the appointment for which the non-immigrant is admitted up to an initial period of three years.  In the event that three years is not adequate time to complete the appointment an O-1 visa can be renewed indefinitely in three years increments.

Documents Requirements

Alone with meeting the criteria above, the following documentation are needed to petition for an O-1 visa:

  • Formal job offer letter. The offer letter must specify the dates for which work authorization is requested.
  • Documentation to support evidence of extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business, or athletics. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Application Process

To apply for an O-1 visa, the UCR must file Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The petition must be filed within a year of the alien’s need of coming to the United States. In order to ensure that the visa is approved in the appropriate time period.  USCIS requires that all O-1 applications be filed by the UCR behalf of the scholar as they cannot apply to USCIS on their own behalf.  The application must be mailed with the proper fees to the USCIS California Service Center. Contact the International Scholar Center at  more information

Family of O-1 Visa Holders

Dependents of O-1s are given the O-3 visa, which does not allow them to work.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

International Students and Scholars Office
0321 Surge Building

Tel: (951) 827-4113
Fax: (951) 827-3248