The O visas are a group of US non-immigrant visas designed to bring people with extraordinary abilities and high education to work in the US. These visas target those people with talents in various fields, their assistants, and families. The O visas are divided in these categories:
- O1 visa – is a visa for those who show expert knowledge in science, business, education, athletics, or art.
- O2 visa – is designed for the personnel or assisting people of the O1 visa holders
- O3 visa – is a visa for the spouses and children of O1 and O2 visa holders
This article will focus on the O2 visa, its types and requirements, application process, and other details which will be useful to those who are considering applying.
What is the O2 Visa?
The O2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for the assisting staff of the O1 visa holders. Only those who work in TV, film, and athletics are allowed to bring their personnel. Those who have O1 visas in education, business, or science are not entitled to bringing their staff with them.
The US institutions recognize that those who hold an O1 visa are exceptionally talented. Their talent requires them to hire additional people who are critical to their success. This means that their personnel and assistants are highly valuable and need to accompany them. So if a person who is getting either an O1A or O1B visa wants to bring their personnel to the US to assist them, they can do so by having the O2 visa approved for them.
The O2 visa is directly related to the O1 visa counterpart. The O1 visa holder must have a job in the US, so that employer will have to sponsor both the O1 person as well as the staff with an O2 visa. This means that both the O1 and O2 visa holders will be employees in the US.
Besides working for the O1 visa holder and assisting them, the O2 visa holder is also allowed to enroll in part time study in the US.
What are the requirements for the O2 visa?
To qualify for the O2 visa, you as the assistant of the O1 visa holder in athletics, film, or television, must fulfill a few eligibility criteria:
- You must be a critical member of the performance or work of the O1 visa holder
- You must have the skills and experience which the O1 visa holder’s performance or work requires, which cannot be found in other workers
- You must only work with people who have a valid O1 visa and not in other jobs, even if they are related to your skills and experience
- Prove that you intend to only work in the US and that you have a residence in another country, so you have ties to your home country
How to apply for the O2 visa?
To apply for the O2 visa, there are several steps that both the US employer (not the O1 visa holder) and the applicant (assistant of O1 visa holder) must go through. The first part of the application process has to be completed by the US employer, and then the applicant can file their application at a US Embassy in their home country.
The O2 visa application must start from the employer, so you as the applicant cannot begin it.
File the employment petition
The US employer who is hiring the O1 and the O2 visa holder must file a petition to begin the process of the visa. For the O2 visa holder, the employer must send a completed Form I-129, Application for Nonimmigrant Worker to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form will ensure that you as the O2 visa holder can work in the US and assist the O1 person with their work.
The Form I-129 must be sent to USCIS at least 45 days, but no more than 6 months before your employment begins. There is a fee for filing this employment petition which is determined by USCIS and varies year by year. The employer is responsible for this fee and any other fees associated with petitioning.
Besides the Form I-129, the employer must also send proof that you are a critical employee in the work of the O1 visa holder and that you have the necessary skills and experience. To prove that, they must submit the following:
- An opinion letter from a certified labor organization, peer group, or management organization. This opinion letter is gathered to ensure that you as the O2 visa applicant are qualified to work in that position and that there are no available employees in the US who can fulfill that role. This means that the letter must contain a statement saying that your skills and experience are so critical to the O1 visa holder’s work that there are no available US employees who can take your place. It must describe those skills and experience and your relationship with the O1 visa holder. The only exemptions to the rule of the opinion letter are those applicants whose work does not have an appropriate labor organization, peer group, or management organization available in the US.
- Contract between you and the O1 visa holder. The contracts will be more acceptable if they are written, but they can also be oral. In case of oral agreements, only a summary of the main points needs to be submitted
- Description of the work you will be doing with the O1 visa holder. The description must contain the dates of the work, any events, and other details.
After the employer has sent the petition and the supporting documents to USCIS, there will be a period of review. USCIS will then issue a decision on whether they accept or deny your petition. If they approve it, you and your employer will get Form I-797, Notice of Action. When you get this form, it means that you as the applicant can start the procedure at a US Embassy in your country of residence.
File Form DS-160
Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is used for all US nonimmigrant visas. The online form will have questions regarding your background and your intent of visiting the US. After you complete it, you will get a confirmation page and code, which you have to attach to your documents for sending to the Embassy.
Pay the visa fee
The application fee for the O2 visa is $190. This fee and any other related fees which might apply depending on your country of residence must be paid before you continue with your application. You must get the receipts which prove you have paid your fees and bring them to the Embassy.
Schedule your visa interview
All visa applicants for US nonimmigrant visas must go through an interview if they are between 14 and 79 years old. The interview will be at the US Embassy you are applying for with an official. To have this interview, you must first schedule it. Try to schedule it as soon as possible since Embassies might have high workloads and you could end up waiting too long to complete this step. When you schedule your interview, you will get an interview confirmation letter, which you must bring with you to the day of the interview.
Gather necessary documents
Compile a file with necessary documents to prove your case. This file includes:
- Your valid passport
- A photograph according to the Photo Requirements for US visa
- The DS-160 confirmation code
- The visa interview letter
- The receipts that you have paid all fees
- The Form I-797
- Proof of a contract with the O1 visa holder and previous contracts with them
- Proof of your skills and experience related to the work of the O1 visa holder
- Proof that you have strong ties to your home country and you intend to return once your contract and visa expire. This could be a property deed or apartment lease.
- If you are planning to bring your family, you must submit proof of your relationship to them (marriage certificate for your spouse and birth certificates for your children).
Attend your interview
The last step is to attend your scheduled interview at the Embassy. The official will go through your document file, as well as ask you questions about why you are going to the US and background questions too. You must answer completely, and you must also try to show that you will return to your home country after your work is done.
What is the O2 visa processing time?
The O2 visa processing time varies from country to country depending on the Embassy workloads. A standard time for the O group of visas is 2 to 3 months of processing time. If you want your visa processed faster, you can choose to pay for premium processing which costs $1,225. The premium processing means that you will get a response on whether you get the visa or not in 2 weeks.
How long is the O2 visa valid?
The O2 visa validity is directly tied to the O1 visa. This means that your initial approval will be for 3 years of work in the US. However, if the O1 visa holder has more work and needs you to stay, you can apply for an extension. USCIS offers unlimited extensions of 1 year increments for O2 visa holders.
If while you are in the US, you find another employer where you can assist another O1 visa holder with their work, you can switch employers. Your new employer must file a new petition for you at USCIS. Additionally, if you want to work for more than one employer, each one must file a petition.
Can I get a Green Card with an O2 visa?
Since during your application time, you were required to hand in proof of strong ties to your home country and state that you will return once your work is done, it is very difficult to get a Green Card. The only way through which you can gain permanent residence is if you change your visa from an O2 to a dual intent visa, such as the H-1B visa. With that visa you can then apply for the Green Card. Otherwise, it is close to impossible to get a Green Card with an O2 visa.
Can I bring my dependents with an O2 visa?
All O2 visa holders are allowed to bring their dependents with them to the US. Dependents are the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old. They will get an O3 visa to stay in the US for as long as the O2 visa holder will stay. Applications for the O3 visa can be made at the same time as the O2 visa application or afterwards. With an O3 visa, your dependents can study in the US, but are not allowed to work.