FAQ: How Long Can Someone with O Status Stay in the US?

For most petitioners thinking about going through the petitioning process, it is important to know what the O status allows.

The question is straightforward. The answer, not quite so straightforward.

In this post, we’ll answer the question of how long someone with O status may remain in the US. But, before we arrive at the answer, let’s look at which foreign nationals the O visa is for.

The O category is set aside for (1) foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, (2) certain people accompanying or assisting those individuals, and (3) certain family members of the extraordinary ability foreign nationals and their accompanying personnel.

Ok. Now, let’s look at how long O-category foreign nationals may stay in the US.

First, it’s worth noting that there is no explicit statutory limit on the total stay allowed.

That being said, the initial stay can be approved for (with a limit of three years) the time needed to complete the “event” or activity for which the O-category foreign national enters the US.

The definition of the word “event” is often significant here. The word “event,” in this context, means

  • an activity such as, but not limited to, a scientific project, conference, convention, lecture series, tour, exhibit, business project, academic year, or engagement.

For further clarification about “event,”

  • an “event” can be an engagement that consists of a three-year offer of employment in the foreign national’s area of extraordinary ability, including the normal duties of a profession;
  • an “event” can be  group of related activities;
  • an “event” can be, in the case of an O-1 athlete, the athlete’s contract.