O-1 (Alien Of Extraordinary Ability)

What is O-1 Status?

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.

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Begin the O-1 request process at least 6 months before the employee’s anticipated start date.


Begin the O-1 request process at least 6 months before the employee’s current O-1 expiration date.


Consult IFSS. We will advise on a case by case basis.


The O-1 non-immigrant application is a one-step process involving only the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Preparing the application is a partnership between IFSS, the hiring department and the individual.

The hiring department is encouraged to contact IFSS with any questions about the O-1 process and to discuss qualifications. First, the Department and Dean’s Office must both assess the case and agree that this individual can demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. The evidence the individual will be required to submit must demonstrate that the individual is one of a small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. IFSS has the right to accept or decline requests depending on how well the individual’s achievements meet the USCIS criteria.

Once the Department and Dean’s Office has agreed to support the O-1 petition, the Department can initiate the O-1 by submitting a New Sponsorship Request in Terra Dotta. Once IFSS approves the New Sponsorship Request, more information and instructions will be sent to the individual and Department regarding next steps.


The individual is required to upload any required documentation into Terra Dotta. IFSS will invite them to the access Terra Dotta and provide more guidance on what documentation should be uploaded.

The Department is required to provide the following items to IFSS:

  • Export Control Form. Directions for this form are on page 2 of the form. Once completed and signed, this can be uploaded in Terra Dotta.
    • This form is required for ALL new, extension, portability and amendment petitions.
    • If an export control was completed on a prior petition, but you don’t know the date of the prior certification, leave that blank and IFSS will fill that in.
    • Department Contacts can/should fill in the top portion of this form, but the Supervisor or Department Chair must answer any the questions found in the middle of the form (if directed to) as well as sign the form.
    • Planned projects/activities section: the job title is not a sufficient description of the project and/or activity. If there is a PVL associated with this position, you may put “See PVL #[add number]” in that section. The description should not be vague (i.e. “research and teaching”). It should be specific (i.e. research in what? Teaching what and to whom?).
    • Once the form is filled out and signed, upload the Export Control Form into the Documents tab.
  • UPS or FedEx mailing label so that IFSS can securely mail the petition to USCIS. This can be uploaded in Terra Dotta. See below for mailing options and addresses.
  • Order the appropriate filing fees. See below.
  • Offer of employment in a faculty or academic staff position at the UW. This can be uploaded in Terra Dotta.
  • Cover letter from Department Chair. This can be uploaded in Terra Dotta.
  • A written consultation/advisory opinion from an appropriate peer group, labor organization or management organization in the field attesting to the employee’s abilities.
    • You or the employee will need to provide the organization with documentation of the position being offered and the employee’s qualifications in order for the organization to give an opinion.
    • A favorable advisory opinion should describe the employee’s ability and achievements in the field, describe the nature of the duties to be performed, and the positive impact that the employee’s activities at UW-Madison will have on the field.
  • Support Letters in Lieu of an Advisory Opinion
    • Since many academic fields do not have a peer group, labor organization or management organization to give an advisory opinion, support letters from experts in the field may be used instead.
  • For Professors and Researchers (Artists, skip to next bullet):
    • Evidence that the professor or researcher is recognized nationally or internationally as being outstanding in the field. The evidence must consist of either receipt of a major, internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or at least 3 of the following:
      1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor.
        • Awards must be national or international, not local, and not be academic scholarships or grants
        • Must have received the award, not just have been nominated.
        • Submit photocopies of prizes or awards.
        • Include evidence illustrating the reputation of the organization granting the award, the significance of the award, the number of nominees, and the criteria used to select the recipient.
      2. Membership in associations in the field of endeavor which require outstanding achievements of their members (as judged by recognized national or international experts in the discipline or fields). .
        • Outstanding achievements must be an essential condition for membership, not just activity in a particular field. Similarly, the prestige of the association does not count unless outstanding achievements are one of the criteria for membership.
        • Submit photocopies of membership certificates, letters of nomination, or letters from associations.
        • Include a description of the association’s mission and the requirements which must be met for membership, such as by-laws of the organization or a letter of explanation from the association.
      3. Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the employee’s work in the field of endeavor (include the title, date and author of such published material, and any necessary translation).
        • Published material must include title, date, author, and be translated if necessary.
        • According to USCIS, “an unevaluated listing in a subject matter index or footnote, or a reference to the work without evaluation is insufficient.” They require published material in international professional journals written by others (not past or present colleagues) about the employee which specifically name the employee.
        • Document the impact of the journal(s).
        • Submit photocopies of cover pages of publications and pages where the employee’s name appears, including footnotes, with title and date of publication. Please highlight the employee’s name on all pages where it appears.
      4. Evidence of the employee’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as the judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field.
        • The employee’s acclaim should be the reason for being selected, not just because it’s a routine part of the job.
        • The judging must be on a national or international level of other accomplished professionals for peer-reviewed journals or government agencies, not the supervision of PhD. candidates.
        • The requests must be frequent, not occasional; the employee’s opinion must be regularly sought.
        • Submit photocopies of lists of editors, letters requesting review of publications, thank you letters, etc. Please highlight employee’s name where it appears.
        • Explain the criteria for selection as a panelist, reviewer, etc., such as widespread recognition or outstanding achievements in the field.
      5. Evidence of the employee’s original scientific, scholarly or artistic/business-related contributions of major significance to the field of endeavor.
        • The evidence must show that the employee is not just competent, but rather is significantly superior to others in the field.
        • Submit a complete list of professional presentations, patents, etc. Include date, place, lists of speakers, criteria for selection, photocopies of invitations, conference papers, etc. Please highlight employee’s name where it appears.
        • Include evidence of the importance of such contributions, as well as the significance of the particular conference or event, to the field.
        • According to USCIS, “evidence that those outside the employee’s circle of colleagues and acquaintances consider the work important is especially valuable.”
      6. Evidence of authorship of scholarly books or articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media.
        • This carries little weight if publication is a normal part of the job. The publications must be in the most prestigious journals and be widely cited by independent researchers.
        • Submit a complete list of publications.
        • Submit photocopies of title page and/or first page of publication showing title of article/book, title of journal, date, volume, and authorship. Please highlight the employee’s name where it appears as author.
        • It is important to explain the significance to the field of the publications in which they appeared, its circulation, and process for selection of articles.
      7. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
        • Explain the distinguished nature of the institution or department within the institution and the critical role that the employee plays there.
        • The explanation should be supported by statements from individuals external to the institution that are qualified to comment on both the stature of the institution and the critical nature of the employee’s contributions.
      8. High salary or other remuneration commanded by the employee for service..
        • Explain how the employee’s salary or other compensation is high by comparison with others in the same field.
      9. Other comparable evidence.
        • Present any other evidence which would support the employee’s widespread recognition for extraordinary ability in the field.
  • For Artists:
    • USCIS requires “distinction,” meaning a high level of achievement in the arts as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. The employee must be prominent, leading or well-known in the field of arts. The arts are defined to include any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to: fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts and performing arts.
    • To establish distinction, it must be shown that the artist either has been nominated for or received significant national awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy or a Director’s Guild Award, or can demonstrate at least 3 of the following:
      1. Lead or starring role in productions or events of distinguished reputation
      2. National or international recognition for achievements
      3. Lead or starring, or other critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation
      4. A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes
      5. Significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field
      6. Commands a high salary or other remuneration
      7. Other comparable evidence

If it’s easier to provide this information via a share site, or provide hard copies, please talk with IFSS to coordinate.


For immigration purposes, dependents are the legally married spouse and/or any children under the age of 21.

The Form I-539 is only needed if the employee’s dependents are inside the U.S. and need to obtain or extend E-3D status.

  • Form I-539
  • Suggested documentation to include with the I-539 application can be provided, if requested.
  • Filing fee
    • Paid by the employee and cannot be reimbursed by the UW
    • Personal check or money order from a U.S. Bank is acceptable, made payable to US Department of Homeland Security.

Dependents who are outside the U.S. do not need to file the I-539. These dependents obtain E-3D status by requesting a visa appointment at a U.S. Consulate/Embassy and presenting the certified LCA or employee’s approval notice (the I-797A or B) along with the marriage certificate (for spouses) or birth certificate (for children under the age of 21).

IMPORTANT: IFSS cannot advise on the Form I-539 since it is the employee’s family member(s)’s personal petition. We cannot give legal advice to an employee’s family member(s). As a courtesy to the employee, we will send the Form I-539 with the supporting documentation along with the employee’s O-1 petition only. We will not review the I-539 for completeness or for errors. We will not submit the I-539 if we are not filing an I-129 petition for the employee. The I-539 can be filed separately from the employee’s O-1 petition. If your employee’s dependent(s) would like assistance on the I-539, please direct them to an immigration attorney. IFSS can provide a list of local attorneys, if requested.



Translations do not need to be done by a professional translating service, nor do they need to be notarized. It is strongly recommended that the employee NOT do the translation. All translations should be accompanied by a signed statement from the translator indicating his/her qualifications for doing the translation. For example: “I certify that I am competent to translate (name of language) into English and this is an accurate translation of the original.”


USCIS does not need a complete list of the employee’s publications. They merely want proof the employee has published in the relevant field. Therefore, we suggest submitting the following, accompanied by a translation, as necessary:

  • Reprints: A copy of only the first page, showing the name, date, and volume number of the journal, the employee’s name and the title of the paper.
  • Books: A copy of the cover page of the book, showing the title, author’s name and table of contents.
  • Chapter in a book: A copy of the cover page of the book, as above, with the first page of the chapter.
  • Conference presentation: A copy of the cover page and table of contents of the conference bulletin, and abstract of the paper presented.
  • Ph.D. thesis: A copy of the title page, table of contents, and abstract.

For each publication copy, highlight the employee’s name wherever it appears on the page.


  • All checks must be separate and payable to: US Department of Homeland Security
  • To request a check through Accounting, follow the normal procedures in your Department

All check requests must be accompanied with this pre-signed Check Custodian Form. Accounting Services will contact IFSS to pick-up the checks when they are ready.

Standard Processing Fee

  • Filing fee is currently $460
  • Required for all petitions
  • Department check only

Premium Processing Fee

This additional fee ($2,500) will guarantee that USCIS will be make a decision in 15 calendar days. To determine if premium processing is required, please consult IFSS. Premium processing does not expedite the internal preparation of the O-1 petition.

NOTE: this does not guarantee an approval. A decision can be an approval, a Request For Evidence (RFE), a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) or a denial.


Preferred couriers that pick up daily at 21 N. Park Street already (no need to schedule a pick-up):

  • UPS
  • FedEx

Standard Processing

USCIS California Service Center
Attn: I-129 O-1
24000 Avila Road
2nd Floor, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Premium Processing

Premium Processing Service
USCIS California Service Center
Attn: I-129 O-1
24000 Avila Road
2nd Floor, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677


Fill out the Amendment Petition Determination Form. IFSS will evaluate whether or not we need to notify USCIS before those changes can occur.

NOTE: USCIS will not retroactively approve changes, so it’s very important to notify us at least 3 months prior to changes occurring.


Notify IFSS using this Departure Form. Email to IFSS. Do not upload into Terra Dotta.


  • Before leaving the UW, remind your employee to update their Glacier account. Questions? Contact glacier@ohr.wisc.edu.
  • Enter a term date for this employee’s I-9. Questions? Contact I9s@ohr.wisc.edu.