O-2 visa requirements for O-1 key personnel
US immigration rules recognize that those coming to the US for work under the O-1 category may require the support of certain key personnel. The O-2 visa is available to individuals looking to accompany an O-1 visa holder to the US to assist with their reason for travel, such as specific events or performances.
Permission to travel under the O-2 visa is therefore linked directly to that of the O-1 visa holder.
The rules only permit an O2 visa holder to assist in “the artistic or athletic performance” of an O1 visa holder. Broadly speaking, this means that only O1 visa holders who work in athletics, film and television are allowed to be accompanied under the O2 visa, and that those who have secured O-1 visas in science, education or business are not able to be accompanied by an O-2 visa holder.
What does the O2 visa allow?
O-2 visa holders must work in the US in support of the principal O-1 visa holder while in the US.
They are also allowed to enter and re-enter the US as many times as they like during the validity of their visa, provided the reason for travel relates to the purpose of the visa.
In addition to that, dependents of O2 visa holders can apply under the O-3 visa route.
How long does an O-2 visa last?
Given that an O2 visa is directly tied to the permission granted to the O1 visa holder, the length of the O2 visa will ordinarily be determined by the period of leave granted to the O-1 visa holders and the nature of the engagements to be undertaken by the O1 athlete or artist.
The O1 visa holder may be initially admitted to the United States for a period of up to three years. Although this time period may be extended, USCIS will determine any extension based on the time necessary to accomplish the initial event or activity in increments of up to one year.
What are the eligibility criteria for an O2 visa?
Consideration of the O2 visa eligibility requires a more detailed look at the O1 visa classification. Specifically, that the O-1 comprises two distinct categories: the O-1A visa and the O-1B visa.
The O-1A visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics. The O2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity.
The O1B visa is for those with an extraordinary ability in the arts, or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. The O2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O1B’s production.
The O2 worker will need to show in their application and interview that they possess critical skills and experience that cannot be readily performed by a US worker, and which are essential to the successful performance of the O1 athlete or artist.
In addition, the applicant will need to evidence their intention to leave the US by the end of the visa period, by proving sufficient ties to their country of residence. This could include having a permanent, non-US foreign residence and showing that the US-based plans are temporary.
How do I apply for an O2 visa?
Both the O1 and O2 visas are petition-based visas. This means a US sponsor will first need to file a petition on behalf of the beneficiary (applicant) with USCIS using Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.
The filing petitioner could be the US employer of the O1 visa holder or, alternatively, a US agent acting on behalf of a foreign employer.
Please note, an O2 beneficiary must be petitioned for in conjunction with the services of the O1 athlete or artist. If the athlete or artist does not yet have an O1 visa, then the O1 and the O2 visa applications should be filed together.
Once the visa petition has been approved by USCIS for the O1 and O2 beneficiary, the O2 visa applicant can apply for their visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence.
O-2 visa applications are generally processed much more quickly than other visa categories, since the application process is generally less burdensome.
The O2 visa applicant will need to submit Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, pay the necessary visa fee, schedule an interview and print out the confirmation page/receipt to take with them to interview.
During the interview, the O2 visa applicant will be asked various questions regarding, for example, their reason for visiting the United States and intent to return to their country of residence at the end of their visit. The applicant will also need to be prepared to explain in detail the nature of their work with the O1 visa holder, together with the extent of their skills and experience.
What O-2 supporting documents will be needed?
In addition to the evidence to be filed on behalf of the O1 beneficiary, including but not limited to a written advisory opinion from a peer group or person with expertise in the O1 beneficiary’s area of ability – this is known as a consultation document and will typically come from a U.S. labor union or management organisation – additional evidence is required to support the petition for the O2 beneficiary.
In particular, the petitioner must also submit evidence by way of a consultation document or letter of opinion from a labor union or management organisation to establish the current essentiality, critical skills and experience of the O2 beneficiary for the O1 beneficiary, and that the O2 beneficiary has substantial experience performing those skills and essential support services for the O1 athlete or artist.
The letter should also confirm that the skills and experience of the O2 beneficiary are so critical to the work of the O1 visa holder that there are no available U.S. employees who can take their place.
In the case of a specific motion picture or television production, the evidence will need to establish that significant production has taken place outside the United States and will take place inside the U.S, and that the continuing participation of the O2 beneficiary is essential to the successful completion of that production.
The only exemptions to the rule of the written consultation are those applicants whose work does not have an appropriate labor organization, peer group or management organisation available in the United States.
There are various other documents that the O2 visa applicant will also need to take to the visa interview, including proof of any contract with the O1 visa holder, as well as evidence of their skills and experience related to their work. The specific documents will depend on your circumstances and the basis of your application and reason for travel. Take advice in advance to ensure you are fully prepared for the Consular officer’s questions.
Does the O2 visa lead to a US Green Card?
The O2 visa is a temporary visa – the application process specifically requires evidence of the applicant’s intentions to leave the US after completion of the reason for travel, and before visa expiry.
However, should an O2 visa holder be considering a longer term move to the US, and ultimately permanent residence, it will require a change of status from the O2 category into a classification that does provide a path to a US Green Card, such as an H-1B visa. Take professional advice the options open to you, as you could explore options to remain on the grounds of employment or potentially family.
Can you change employers on an O2 visa?
In the event that an O1 visa holder decides to change employers while in the United States, the new employer will need to file a Form I-129 with USCIS. Similarly, this would need to be done for the O2 visa holder accompanying the O1 beneficiary.
Where the original petition was filed by a U.S. agent, an amended petition must be filed with evidence relating to the new employer and a request for an extension of stay.
Need assistance with an O-2 visa?
There is a lot to the O-2 visa petition, from ensuring eligibility criteria are met and sufficiently evidenced to coordinating with the O-1 visa application.
NNU Immigration are a team of specialist US immigration attorneys with specific expertise in the O visa category. For advice on your O2 visa petition, contact us.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.