Sponsoring or Extending an O-1

The approval of an O-1 petition requires a substantial amount of evidence.  O-1 sponsorship is generally not considered unless other options such as J-1 or H-1B are not possible or the scholar already holds O-1 status and requires concurrent O-1 sponsorship.

O-1 employment  is is job-specific and employer-specific. The petition is adjudicated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Process Example
Alert Icon

USCIS Raises I-129 fee for O-1s to $705 effective October 2, 2020

We encourage all departments to send us complete application materials (with checks and all supporting documents) for new visa sponsorship and extensions of sponsorship during August to avoid the higher fee. Applications submitted to the ISSO in September must include the higher fee. 

All O-1 Employees Require Columbia University Visa Sponsorship 

University policy requires those with externally sponsored O-1 visas (including those sponsored through an agent or attorney) to hold an academic appointment or other Columbia salaried position with concurrent Columbia O-1 sponsorship. Individuals without Columbia O-1 sponsorship facilitated through the ISSO are not eligible to be employed.

Orange Divider
Orange Divider

Eligibility

O-1 status is reserved for those who are among the small percentage of experts who have risen to the top of their field, and therefore it is generally not appropriate for post-doctoral scholars and scientists, or other training programs.

The O-1 petition needs to demonstrate extraordinary ability by documenting at least three of the following:

Orange Divider

Before You Sponsor / Petition Overview

There is no limit to the time an individual can be in O-1 status. The first petition can be up to three years; thereafter, the extension, with updated documentation, is for one year at a time.

Due to the long process of collecting evidence, it is recommended that you begin the new O-1 application or extension more than six months in advance of the intended start date. It can take USCIS four months or more to adjudicate a petition.

You may expedite the final step of the petition processing to a turn-around of 15 calendar days from the date USCIS receives it for an additional optional Premium Processing fee

While working remotely due to COVID-19, follow Accounts Payable's contingency plan for picking up checks.

Orange Divider

How to Sponsor / Extend

How to sponsor or extend an O-1
Step 1

Initiate your application process

Log in to the Scholar Sponsorship Portal (SSP) to initiate an online application for O-1 sponsorship

This must be initiated by the department, not the scholar. Contact us if you are a department administrator requesting access to the SSP.

Contact Liz Basile who is responsible for O-1 petitions for all Columbia campuses.

Step 2

Gather your documents and checks

You need to compile the following documents and checks for the USCIS fees for the petition and collect the required documentation from your prospective O-1 scholar. 
Note: Request checks through the Accounts Payable contingency plan for pick-up checks. 

Documents for All Applicants

Attach letter of offer of employment.

This letter must be signed in ink, quite detailed, and include certain items. You may use the sample letter as a guide. Affirmative action approval must be granted before an O-1 application is submitted.

* Follow Accounts Payable contingency plan for pick up checks while working remotely. 

When preparing a Check Request to submit to Accounts Payable, use the ARC supplier "US Dept. of Homeland Security, USCIS Service Center, 75 Lower Weldon Street, St. Albans, VT 05479-0001." Request check(s) payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Do not use enclosure text--use only "hold for pickup" when requesting these checks. The processing fees are:

  • $460: I-129 petition (Fee increase to $705 effective October 2, 2020)
  • $370: I-539 change of status/extension of stay application for dependents
  • $85: I-539A Biometrics fee for each dependent
  • $1,440 Premium Processing fee (increase from $1410). Optional fee to expedite the USCIS adjudication process to 15 calendar days rather than the usual 3-4 months processing time.

All fees must be on separate checks.

Additional Documents for Teaching and Research Applicants

Provide your C.V., including a list of publications.

Provide a copy of a diploma and transcript in the original language. If the original language is not English, provide a copy of copy of certified translations of diplomas and transcripts. 

If the degree does not appear to be equivalent to a comparable U.S. degree, it must be evaluated by an outside agency to determine U.S. equivalency. Two firms that provide this service are Trustforte Corp or Morningside Evaluations. They can also translate your documents.

Letters from prominent individuals who can confirm applicant’s original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance to the field. Provide at least 5 letters from your “peer group” attesting to your outstanding qualifications. All letters must be accompanied with the CV for each expert as evidence of their statue in the field of expertise. 

The case is strengthened by letters from outside the Columbia community and outside the United States. See sample letter and guidelines for peer letters.

a. Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field. Provide photocopies of 1-3 award certificates or copies of letters with the award notification.
b. Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts in the field. Provide copies of 1-3 appointing letters.
c. Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media. Provide copies of 8-10 most-cited articles.
d. Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about applicant’s work. Provide copies of 1-3 publications.
e. Evidence of participation on a panel, or as a judge of the work of others in the field. Provide photocopies of 1-3 letters of appointment to editorial boards or letters of invitation to review the work of others.
f. Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation. Provide a statement from the former/current employer on letterhead stating in as much detail as possible that the individual's role was critical or essential.

Provide a copy of your passport ID page with a validity date at least six months into the future.

If you are currently in the U.S., attach a copy of your electronic I-94 arrival record

If you previously spent time in the U.S. in J-1 status, provide copies of any DS-2019 forms you were issued.

If you have dependent(s) currently in the United States who is applying for a change of status or extension with you, they must complete and sign USCIS form I-539. In addition, each dependent requires an I-539A form, regardless of age. The filing fee for form I-539 is $370 plus an additional fee of $85 for each person included on an I-539A for biometrics services . 

  • Include 1 copy of each dependent's I-94 arrival record, visa stamp and passport pages.
  • Include 1 copy of either a marriage certificate (spouse) or birth certificate (child) 

Additional Documents for Applicants in the Arts

Provide a copy of your C.V., including a list of publications

The consultation must be from an organization with expertise in the specific field involved, must state that the position requires a person of extraordinary ability and must give facts as to why this is so. Refer to the list of organizations that will write peer evaluations for information on those who can attest to the applicant's outstanding qualifications. This is necessary for performers.

If no union/association exists:

Provide at least five letters of support from senior people (peers) in the field of specialization outside of Columbia attesting to the scholar's “demonstrated extraordinary ability” and highlighting significant contributions to the field.

a. Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field. Provide photocopies of 1-3 award certificates or copies of letters with the award notification.
b. Achieved national or international recognition for achievements. Provide copies of 1-3 appointing letters.
c. Evidence of performance as a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation. Provide copies of 1-3 copies of playbills, reviews, programs or any other written proof.
d. Evidence of having received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged. Provide copies of reviews, awards, articles written in periodicals, interviews, or any other written proof of recognition.
e. Evidence of commanding a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field. This category does not usually apply to those performing at universities.

A copy of your passport ID page with a validity date at least six months into the future.

If you are currently in the U.S., attach a copy of your electronic I-94 arrival record

If you previously spent time in the U.S. in J-1 status, provide copies of any DS-2019 forms you were issued.

If you have dependent(s) currently in the United States who is applying for a change of status or extension with you, they must complete and sign USCIS form I-539. In addition, each dependent requires an I-539A form, regardless of age. The filing fee for form I-539 is $370 plus an additional fee of $85 for each person included on an I-539A for biometrics services . 

  • Include 1 copy of each dependent's I-94 arrival record, visa stamp and passport pages.
  • Include 1 copy of either a marriage certificate (spouse) or birth certificate (child) 
Step 3

While we are working remotely, please coordinate delivery of the complete application with Liz Basile.

Liz is responsible for O-1 petitions for all Columbia campuses.

Step 4

We will contact you

Allow up to 10 business days for us to review and process your application. We will notify you if additional information or documentation is required.

Orange Page Divider

Extending an O-1

Extending

Before You Extend

The initial O-1 petition can be filed for a 3-year period.  Thereafter, extensions are limited to one year at a time. There is no limit to the number of extensions that may be filed. 

 

The petition to extend O-1 status requires the same documentation as the original petition, but updated (e.g. updated CV, additional publications, awards, etc.).

Due to the long process of collecting evidence, begin the extension process  at least six months in advance of the intended new start date. It can take USCIS four months or more to adjudicate a petition.

Premium Processing guarantees a USCIS action on the case within 15 business days from the date they receive it. Using Premium Processing for an additional fee is optional, but recommended.  

Orange Page Divider

How to Extend

Follow the same steps above because an extension requires the same documentation as the original petition.

CUIMC departments should contact Liz Basile, responsible for O-1 petitions for all Columbia campuses.