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Navigating O1 Visa Transfers: Changing Employers or Projects

Updated on March 21, 2024

The O1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field to live and work in the United States. While the O1 visa is tied to a specific employer or project, there may be instances where an O1 visa holder needs to change employers or projects. In this blog post, we’ll explore the process of transferring an O1 visa, including the requirements, procedures, and considerations for a successful transition.

30 Second Recap:

O1 visa transfers allow O1 visa holders to change employers or projects by filing a new or amended petition with USCIS. The new employer or current employer must file Form I-129, provide supporting evidence, and pay the required filing fee. Timing is crucial, as the O1 visa holder cannot begin working for the new employer or on the new project until the transfer petition is approved. To maintain valid O1 status during the transfer process, the visa holder must continue working for their current employer or project, avoid unauthorized employment, and depart the U.S. if their current status expires before the transfer is approved. Working with an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure a successful O1 visa transfer.

Understanding O1 Visa Transfers

An O1 visa transfer occurs when an O1 visa holder changes employers or projects while maintaining their O1 status. There are two primary scenarios in which an O1 visa transfer may be necessary:

  1. Change of Employer: If an O1 visa holder wishes to work for a new employer, the new employer must file a new O1 petition on their behalf.
  2. Change of Project: If an O1 visa holder’s job duties or projects change significantly within the same company, the employer may need to file an amended O1 petition to reflect the new scope of work.

It’s important to note that an O1 visa transfer is not a transfer in the literal sense; rather, it involves filing a new or amended petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Requirements for an O1 Visa Transfer

To initiate an O1 visa transfer, the new employer or the current employer (in case of a change in project) must:

  1. File a new or amended Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS.
  2. Provide supporting evidence demonstrating that the O1 visa holder continues to meet the qualifications for the O1 visa classification.
  3. Include a copy of the O1 visa holder’s Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, and a copy of their current O1 approval notice.
  4. Pay the required USCIS filing fee.

Timing Considerations for O1 Visa Transfers

When planning an O1 visa transfer, it’s crucial to consider the timing of the petition filing and the O1 visa holder’s employment start date. Some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Filing the petition: The new or amended O1 petition should be filed as soon as possible, ideally before the O1 visa holder’s current employment ends or the new employment begins.
  2. Employment start date: The O1 visa holder cannot begin working for the new employer or on the new project until USCIS approves the transfer petition.
  3. Portability: Unlike some other nonimmigrant visa categories, such as H-1B, O1 visa holders do not have the benefit of portability. This means that they cannot start working for the new employer or on the new project until the transfer petition is approved.
  4. Gaps in employment: If there is a gap between the end of the O1 visa holder’s current employment and the start of their new employment, they may need to depart the United States and re-enter once the transfer petition is approved.

Maintaining Status During an O1 Visa Transfer

To maintain valid O1 status during the transfer process, the O1 visa holder must:

  1. Continue working for their current employer or on their current project until the transfer petition is approved.
  2. Avoid any unauthorized employment or engagement in activities inconsistent with their O1 status.
  3. Depart the United States if their current O1 status expires before the transfer petition is approved.

Working with an Immigration Attorney

Navigating an O1 visa transfer can be complex, and it’s highly recommended to work with an experienced immigration attorney throughout the process. An attorney can help:

  1. Determine the appropriate transfer strategy based on the O1 visa holder’s specific circumstances.
  2. Prepare and file the new or amended O1 petition with the necessary supporting evidence.
  3. Advise on maintaining valid O1 status during the transfer process.
  4. Address any complications or challenges that may arise during the transfer.

Final Thoughts

O1 visa transfers provide a pathway for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement to change employers or projects while maintaining their O1 status. By understanding the requirements, timing considerations, and strategies for maintaining status, O1 visa holders can successfully navigate the transfer process and continue pursuing their career goals in the United States. Working closely with an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure a smooth and compliant transfer experience.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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