Complete Guide to the O3 Visa

Updated on April 10, 2024

The United States offers different types of visas to different categories of immigrants and nonimmigrant groups. The O3 visa is among the visas that are not as widely known as the H1B visa or J1 visa. If you’re interested in obtaining an O3 visa, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the O3 visa.

At a Glance

  • O3 visa is a dependent visa for spouses or unmarried children of O1A and O1B visa holders.
  • Holders can legally reside in the U.S., travel, and study in U.S. educational institutions.
  • Qualifications include being related to the O1 visa holder, accompanying them, and meeting eligibility criteria.
  • Application process varies based on whether the applicant is in or outside the U.S., with a typical processing time of two to three months.

What Is an O3 Visa?

The O3 visa is awarded to the dependents of O1A and O1B visa holders. Dependents can be either a spouse or unmarried children. By getting the O3 visa, they can accompany the O1 visa holder into the United States and stay with him/her for the duration.

Some of the privileges of the O3 visa are:

  • You can legally reside in the United States with your family.
  • You can travel outside of the U.S. on short trips and reenter without much restriction.
  • Can study either full or part-time in any U.S. educational institution.

But just like other dependents’ visas, there are restrictions associated with an O3 visa. Moreover, you need to meet the eligibility criteria as laid out by the USCIS.

Who Qualifies for an O3 Visa?

To qualify for an O3 visa, you must meet certain guidelines:

You Must Be Accompanying an O1 Visa Holder

The first criterion is that your spouse or parent be in possession or eligible for an O1 visa. O1 visas are for a category of foreign nationals who possess extraordinary achievements and recognition at the national or international level. This can be in academia, sports, or professional work. These are divided into two categories:

  • O1A – These are for foreign nationals involved in science, education, business, or athletics.
  • O1B – These are for foreign nationals with achievement in art, film, or television.

You Must Be a Direct Relation of the O1 Visa Holder

The second criterion is that an applicant should be an immediate family member of the O1 visa holder. This most often than not refers to a spouse who is legally married to the O1 visa holder. But this can also mean legal children, either biological or adopted, who are under the age of 21 and unmarried. You will be asked to provide relevant documents to prove your relationship with the O1 visa holder.

You Are Not Inadmissible on Any Other Grounds

Finally, you shouldn’t have any issues, either personally or physically, which would otherwise make you ineligible for admission into the United States. If the USCIS or any involved agency finds out that you are not allowed to enter the U.S., your O3 visa application will be rejected.

Documents Required for an O3 Visa

Before you start your application, make sure you have the right documents in place. These will be asked for throughout the application process and also by CBP officers at the point of entry. The documents required for an O3 visa are:

  • Form I-797 approval notice (this is related to your spouse’s O1 visa)
  • Marriage certificate proving your marriage to the O1 visa holder
  • Birth certifications of children
  • Copies of the O1 visa holder’s passport and O1 visa
  • Interview confirmation letter (provided by the USCIS)
  • Fee receipt copies of all payments made
  • DS-160 copy
  • Passport specific photos

How to Apply for an O3 Visa

The application process will first depend upon your current location. The process will be different for applicants inside the United States than those who are still residing in their native country.

If You Are in the United States

If you are already inside the United States, you should apply at the same time as your spouse applies for their O1 visa. Your spouse’s employer will be sponsoring your O3 visa as well. You should do this before your current nonimmigrant visa status expires. In that case, you need to submit Form I-539, Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status.

If You Are Outside of the United States

In this case, chances are you are applying for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa for the very first time. Here are the steps you need to take to get your O3 visa. You can either file concurrently with your spouse or wait till he obtains his O1 visa from his employer.

Submit DS-160

This is the first set of paperwork you’ll be filing, but online. Known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, you need to file it using consular processing. Fill out all fields applicable to you, following the instructions. You must keep the confirmation page and the unique code safe until your O3 visa is approved.

Pay the Fees

You can pay the visa processing fee online or at the nearest bank. The receipt you receive is even more important as it proves that you’ve made the payments. Depending upon your country of residence, there might be additional fees like issuance fees. You must get the receipts for them as well.

Schedule an Interview

This step involves scheduling an interview at the U.S. embassy in your country. All applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to attend this interview. It is advised that you schedule the interview as early as possible since embassies typically experience a high workload throughout the year. You will get a confirmation regarding the scheduling of your interview.

Prepare the Documents

You need to start preparing the list of documents we’ve mentioned above; bring the originals to the interview.

Attend the O3 Visa Interview

Finally, you should attend the interview at the U.S. embassy. If you’re applying alongside your spouse, most likely both interviews will be scheduled on the same day. Produce the documents and answer all of the questions asked. It is important to emphasize your relationship with the O1 visa holder and the ties you have with your native country.

After it’s done, you have to wait to hear back from the embassy regarding your application

O3 Visa Cost

The processing fee for the O3 visa is currently $190. There might be an additional cost associated with processing your form.

O3 Visa Processing Time

For O group visas, the normal processing time frame is between two to three months. The USCIS will communicate with you regarding the status of your visa; you can also use the CEAC website to check your status.

Final Thoughts

The only restriction associated with the O3 visa is that you are not legally allowed to work in the United States since you’re ineligible for EAD (Employment Authorization Document). Therefore, you should limit yourself to studying or look for ways to change your visa status if you want to work.

An O3 visa is relatively easy to get and maintain. If you have any questions or concerns, you should seek legal help from a registered attorney in your area.

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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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