The O1 is for aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics, is a non-immigrant, employment-based visa classification. It requires that the employer file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), along with evidence of the alien's extraordinary ability. Such petitions are a substantial amount of work for the applicant. Typically, his/her entire professional career must be documented and supported with evidence.
Individuals who are subject to the J two-year home country residence requirement under previous J1/J2 classification, are eligible to apply for the O1. Such individuals, however, are not eligible for a change to O1 status within the US, but must apply for the O1 visa abroad, and re-enter the US in O1 status.
Policy: The ISSO will file this application for qualified individuals holding academic positions who may not otherwise qualify for H1B Temporary Worker status.
Time Limits: An initial O1 petition can be filed for up three years. Subsequent extensions may be for no more than one year at a time. There is no limit to the number of one year extensions possible.
Non-Cornell O's: It is possible for an individual, agent or attorney to petition for O1 status. For example, an agent could submit a petition for a famous personage to go on a speaking tour at multiple US locations. In these cases, non-Cornell O1's may be paid only if Cornell University was named in that O1's original I-129 petition to USCIS.
Once an O1 has been approved, extensions do not require a reassessment of the O1's extraordinary contribution to the field. Thus, O1 extensions only require the following:
Information on travel and obtaining a O1 visa stamp can be found here.