So you have had your O1 visa for about 2.5 years and now you think it’s time to start inquiring about extending it. Great, but is it easy? O1 extensions used to be a fairly easy process whereby the same petitioner would just ask USCIS to extend the visa for the O1 beneficiary for 1-3 years so the beneficiary may continue their employment in the US. You would provide a letter, an agreement between the petitioner and the artist, the immigration forms and a previously obtained advisory opinion letter. This would typically be enough for the extension and the extension would be approved.
But what’s different now? The Brave New World of O1 visas. USCIS is frequently treating O1 visa extensions as brand new filings regardless of previous O1 visa approvals for the beneficiary. USCIS will require the following:
1. Sponsor letter detailing that the sponsor still requires the work of the alien, or in the case of an Artist, still wishes to act as their representative or employer.
2. Contract between the petitioner and beneficiary detailing the terms of employment/representation.
3. Detailed Itinerary listing the beneficiary’s activities for the duration of the visa. Depending on the area of ability or field in general, this can range from very tentative to very specific information. For example, Actors will have to provide production schedules with specific production locations and addresses, taking into consideration that some information may change in the future without requiring the Petitioner to amend the petition.
4. If the Petitioner/Sponsor is not the Employer but is a representative allowing the beneficiary to work with different employers, such as an agent or manager, the Sponsor must provide deal memos/contracts that detail the specific work that will be performed throughout the duration of the visa.
5. If a Consultation letter already exists, but is more than 2 years old, USCIS may require the Petitioner to obtain an updated letter form the appropriate union and/or management organization.
6. Evidence that you still meet the minimum criteria for O1 visas. In the past you would get away with not providing evidence of your abilities for an extension. Now, we recommend that individuals treat the extension as if it’s their first filing and build upon their previous O1 visa with proof of their continued work and growth in the field.
7. Beware and don’t be shocked if USCIS requests additional evidence that the beneficiary has actually worked with or for the Petitioner in the last 3 years. This may be in the form of: Income Taxes / W2 forms /contracts / pay stubs / production credits etc…
The above is a non-exclusive list of what you might be required to provide for your O1 visa extension. Please note that depending on the type of case and the specific details of your particular case the requirements might change. Every case is different and as always you should consult an experienced immigration attorney in the area to prepare your next O1 visa extension.