O-1 Visa

The O-1 visa category is reserved for individuals of “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts or education. The documentation required for an O-1 petition is quite extensive and the decision whether or not a scholar qualifies for an O-1 visa is often difficult. For consideration of whether an O-1 application is advisable, contact Kathy Steiner-Lang, director of the OISS.

Reporting a Change of Address

To report a change of address to DHS, you will need to submit Form AR-11. Persons who are subject to special registration must complete Form AR-11SR. For information on special registration, please see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website on special registration.

Both Forms AR-11 and AR-11SR can be downloaded and printed from the USCIS website, under “Forms.” The AR-11 form can also be submitted electronically to the DHS. Note that if you choose this option to report your first address, you will have to enter “N/A” in any fields that do not apply to you, such as “Last Address” and “A Number”.

To report a change of address, you will need to use the HRMS Self Service function. Click on the yellow “SIGN IN” button and enter your WUSTL Key.  Once you update HRMS, OISS will be notified and will update your record in our office.

Travel Guidelines for O-1s

If you are a person in O-1 status wishing to travel outside the United States, you need to be aware of regulations concerning your reentry into the U.S. As an O-1 nonimmigrant, you and your dependents are responsible for obtaining the necessary documents required for reentry into the U.S. after international travel. If you leave the U.S., there is never a guarantee that a new visa will be issued after expiration of a previously issued visa, or that you will be allowed to re-enter the country. The risk of being refused a visa or being denied entry to the U.S. should be weighed against your desire to continue academic or professional activities in the U.S.


U.S. Visit Procedure

The Department of Homeland Security records all entries to and exits from the United States. Changes have been made to the exit procedures when departing the U.S. Commercial airlines should be following these procedures to report your departure to the Department of Homeland Security. If you have any questions please contact the director of the OISS or visit the Department of Homeland Security website.


Documents Needed to Enter the U.S.

The following documents are required upon entering the United States:

  • Valid Passport: If your passport will expire soon, you must renew your passport before re-entry to the U.S.
  • Original Form I-797, Approval Notice for O-1 status
  • Valid O-1 visa stamped in passport: If your visa has expired or will expire before returning to the U.S., you must renew the visa at a U.S. consulate while abroad. (Canadians are exempt from this requirement).
  • Although not required, it is recommended that you have a letter from your department confirming your employment upon your entry to the U.S.

Dependents applying for an O-3 visa will need to submit a copy of the main applicant’s Form I-797 Approval Notice when applying for an O-3 visa, as well as documentation of the relationship to the O-1 (i.e., birth certificate, marriage certificate). Dependents will need to show their valid passports with valid O-3 entry visas in order to enter the U.S.


After You Re-Enter the U.S.

All O-1 scholars and their O-3 dependents should check the date marked on the I-94 card upon re-entry to the U.S. The date marked on the I-94 should match the end date of the O-1 I-797 approval notice. Sometimes, O-1 scholars are given a 10-day grace period on the I-94 card (an extra 10 days after the end date of the I-797 approval notice).

If your I-94 card is marked with another date (before the end date on the I-797 approval notice), you should contact the OISS immediately.

Scholars are encouraged to send the director of the OISS a copy of their new I-94 card after they arrive in the U.S.


Travel while Change to O-1 Status is Pending

You are not permitted to travel abroad while an application for change of status is pending. If you travel outside of the U.S. while an application to change status is pending, you are considered by USCIS to have abandoned your application. In this event, an O-1 petition may be approved, but you must apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad to enter the U.S. in O-1 status.


Travel while Extension of Stay is Pending and 240-day Automatic Extension of Work Authorization

Although it is permissible to travel while a petition to extend O-1 status is pending with USCIS, you will still need a valid O-1 visa and a valid Form I-797 to re-enter the U.S. If the extension of stay is not approved by the time you need to re-enter the U.S., you may use your prior approval notice, but only if the period of employment on the notice has not yet expired and the O-1 visa in your passport is still valid. If an O extension is pending while you are outside of the U.S. and you intend to enter after the date of the current petition, you will not be eligible to enter the U.S. until the petition has been approved. If the previous petition is no longer valid, it is likely that your visa has also expired and that you will need a new visa to return to the U.S. in O-1 status. In this circumstance, you should NOT enter the country as a tourist because those in tourist status are not allowed to work in the U.S.


Applying for an O-1 Visa Overseas

All visa applications require a valid passport, the original Form I-797 document, visa processing fee, visa reciprocity fee (if applicable) and a completed visa application (i.e., Form DS-160). Every person applying for a visa abroad, whether in the home country or third country, MUST have an interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy. Because the processing times and procedures for the visa application vary at each consulate, it is important that you visit the website of the consulate where you will be applying to see what other documentation is required.

Find information on U.S. consular office procedures for processing visa applications on the U.S. Embassy website.

For information on the visa reciprocity fee for your country, please visit a website provided by the Department of State.

Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application)can be found on the designated consulate’s website or on a website provided by the Department of State.

Be aware that there may be problems with an O-1 application, particularly if travel is planned around the time an application is being filed with the USCIS for O-1 status. Any possible travel plans should be discussed with the director of the OISS.


Immigration Status Versus Visa

Your I-94 record (paper or electronic) designates your immigration status. The Form I-94 card is found on the lower right hand corner of the Form I-797 Approval Notice, which is issued to you by USCIS upon approval of your O-1 petition, or was issued by the Customs and Border Patrol Officer at the port of entry to the U.S. (recorded electronically, if entering by air or sea; recorded on paper if entering by land). A visa is the document issued by the U.S. State Department at a U.S. embassy and grants you eligibility to enter the U.S. in a specific status.


Security Checks/Administrative Processing

All visa applicants will undergo security checks, commonly referred to at consulates as administrative processing. Security checks can delay or even result in the denial of a visa. Because of this, you should apply for the visa well in advance of the date you wish to travel to the U.S.. The State Department has its own reasons for running security checks on applicants, and there is no way to predict with certainty who will be subject to these checks. However, you are more likely to be subject to an in-depth security check if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are applying for a visa in a third country.
  • You are coming from or have traveled in certain countries, including the seven countries on the U.S. State Department’s List of State Sponsors of Terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Experience has shown that persons from Russia and China are also subject to in-depth security checks.
  • You are engaged either professionally or academically in any of the fields listed on the U.S. State Department’s Technology Alert List (“TAL”). These fields include, but are not limited to: engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, architecture and urban planning.


Applying for a Visa in a Country other than Your Home Country

Persons applying for a visa in a country other than their country of citizenship are referred to as Third Country Nationals (“TCNs”). Visas may be necessary for travel to a third country. If you are applying for a visa in a third country, you will need to contact that country’s consulate in either the United States or abroad to determine if a visa or other documents are necessary for entry. You can access a list of foreign consular offices in the U.S. at the Department of State website.

Although some consulates accept visa applications from TCNs, the process will likely be more time-consuming because the consular officer must take extra measures to verify the applicant’s relationship to his or her home country and to the U.S. Because TCN visa applications have a higher risk of being denied than those who are residents in that country, applying for a visa in a third country is not recommended. Due to this high risk, it is essential that you make alternative plans before leaving the U.S. in the event that your visa application is denied and you are prohibited from re-entering the country. In light of the possibility of being barred re-entry to the U.S., you should evaluate your reasons for travel in relation to your desire to continue your program in the U.S.

Find information on U.S. consular office procedures for processing visa applications on the U.S. Embassy website.


Applying for a Visa in Canada and Mexico

If you wish you to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in Canada or Mexico, you must make an appointment with the consulate where you will be filing your visa application.

Read complete instructions for TCN visa applications in Canada and Mexico on a website provided by the Department of State.

Please note that if the consulate in Canada or Mexico denies your visa application, you will not be eligible to return to the U.S. under the provisions of automatic visa revalidation.


Further Questions

If you should have further questions regarding travel outside the United States, please email Kathy Steiner-Lang or contact by telephone at (314) 935-5910.

Please note that legislation concerning nonimmigrant travel is constantly changing, and it is important to be updated about such information before making your travel plans and to heed any travel warnings.