O-1 Visa

A temporary worker visa designated for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, arts or athletics; and individuals of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industries.

Eligibility

The O-1 temporary worker visa status is designated for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, arts or athletics and individuals of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industries. The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) determines whether an individual qualifies for O-1 visa status. O-1 visas are initially valid for up to 3 years and may be extended in one-year increments.

To qualify as an individual of extraordinary ability a foreign national must show evidence of receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize or at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts in the field.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the applicant's work.
  • Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as the judge of the work of others in the field.
  • Evidence in the form of 5 or 6 letters from prominent colleagues who can confirm the applicant's original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance to the field.
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence of commanding a high salary or other compensation for services. This category does not usually apply to academic positions.

Specifics of Approval

The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) decides whether an individual qualifies for O-1 classification. The O-1 visa is employer specific, which means that a USCIS approved petition submitted by the HIO only authorizes the individual to work in the position specified in the petition filed by Harvard. An individual who has an O-1 approval from another employer is not eligible to work at Harvard. An O-1 visa holder may work for more than one employer, but each employer must file a separate visa petition. The employer will be liable for the reasonable cost of return transportation of the applicant abroad if the applicant is dismissed from employment by the employer before the end of the period of authorized admission. For questions, please contact the HIO.

Maintaining Status

As an O-1 visa holder, you will have an expiration date on the Form I-94 that should match the end date on the O-1 petition filed on your behalf. You are advised to print out a Form I-94 via the above mentioned web site each time you make an entry to the United States. To maintain the O-1 visa status, you must continue to pursue the intended activity at Harvard University.

Changes in Employment

If there are significant changes in employment, the O-1 visa holder should contact his/her HIO advisor.

Change of Address

All non-immigrants are required to notify USCIS within 10 days of a change of residential address. Notification of change of address is accomplished by completing Form AR-11. Please follow the instructions. Please also notify the HIO of new addresses by sending a photocopy of the form submitted to the USCIS.

Dependents

The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of are eligible for dependent visa status. Dependents of O-1 visa holders are classified in O-3 status and are not eligible for employment under any circumstances. However, O-3 visa holders may attend school full time.

O-3 Travel Abroad and Reentry

For information on O-3 travel, see the Travel section below.

Employment

O-1 visa holders are only authorized for employment by the organization which sponsored the O-1 petition. An O-1 visa holder may work for more than one employer, but each employer must file a separate visa petition.

Social Security Numbers

O-1 Visa holders are eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN) and need one in order to be employed. O-3 visa holders are not eligible for Social Security Numbers as they are not authorized to accept employment.

How to Apply

In order to apply for a Social Security Number, you must take your passport, Form I-797 (O-1 approval notice) and Form I-94 to the Social Security Administration office at 10 Fawcett Street, 1st Floor, Cambridge.

At the Social Security Administration office, you must complete the SSN application form. You will receive notification of your SSN in the mail. The process usually takes four to eight weeks. If you have not heard within this time period, please contact the HIO. You may call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security Administration website with any questions. Once you have obtained a U.S. Social Security Number, it is not necessary to apply for a new one if the employment changes. If you lose your SSN Card and need to apply for a replacement card, you must prove that you are employed in the United States at the time of your application.

When to apply

You must have been in the Unites States for at least ten days and must have registered with the HIO. This waiting period assures that your record will have been updated in the government's database. In addition, you cannot apply for an SSN before the start date of your visa document (Form I-797).

Taxes

The following is general information regarding taxation of international scholars. To review detailed tax information (including tax return filing during tax season) please visit the tax section of this website.

International scholars should be aware that taxes may be deducted from salaries if funds are from U.S. sources. The available income after taxes may be less than anticipated as scholars may be subject to federal, state, and/or Social Security taxes which can range from 14-30% of one's total income. The amount of taxes scholars may pay depends on the type of income they receive and their tax status in the United States. In addition, there are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries which may exempt certain earnings from taxes. Those who receive funding from Harvard will receive information from the University Financial Services office.

All international scholars and their dependents with U.S source income are required to report their annual income by completing tax forms between January 1 and April 15 of the following year. Accompanying dependents on O-3 visas must complete at least one tax form as well.

To help guide individuals through the tax filing process, the HIO has purchased Windstar, a web based tax return preparation software designed exclusively for international students, scholars, and their dependents who are nonresidents for tax purposes.  It is available to anyone with a valid Harvard ID and PIN. Users will need their HUID and PIN to access the software.

Windstar is available to anyone with a valid Harvard ID and PIN. Users will need their HUID and PIN to access the Windstar site.

Due to legal restrictions, the HIO staff is not able to answer questions regarding individual tax situations. For additional information, visit the tax section of our website.

Travel

For travel outside the U. S. the following documents are required for re-entry to the U.S.

O-1 Visa Holders

  • Original Form I-797, O-1 Approval Notice from the USCIS which is valid for a period beyond the anticipated travel
  • Copy of Form I-129, the O-1 visa petition provided by HIO with the approval notice
  • Valid O visa stamp in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Valid passport
  • Current letter from faculty sponsor verifying your employment

O-3 Dependent Visa Holders

  • Original Form I-797, O-3 Approval Notice from the USCIS or copy of spouse's I-797, O-1 Approval Notice which is valid for a period beyond the anticipated travel
  • Valid O visa stamp in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Valid passport

Extensions

Extensions of O-1 status are available in one year increments. The O-1 extension process requires submission of proof that the employment is ongoing and generally includes updated evidence of extraordinary ability. A petition must be filed before the current O-1 status ends in order to allow an individual to maintain status and remain on payroll.

If a petition is filed in a timely manner, an individual in O-1 status is authorized to continue to work and be paid for up to 240 days after the expiration of the current O-1 status. The HIO will fax a letter to the appointing department once the extension petition has been filed with USCIS to verify an individual's eligibility for continuing work authorization.

Once the extension petition is approved by USCIS, individuals traveling abroad may need to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to get a new O-1 visa before returning to the United States.

Transfers and Leaving Harvard

Leaving Harvard to Work Elsewhere

If you are leaving Harvard to work for another U.S. based employer, the new employer may need to file a petition representing the change in sponsorship to USCIS. Your new employer will have to work with you in order to plan the timing of filing a new petition. This may be necessary even if you are moving from one department or school to another within Harvard University.

Leaving Harvard and the United States

When you plan to end employment with Harvard, please be sure to contact your advisor at the HIO and your department administrator to ensure that your immigration paperwork is handled appropriately. If you are leaving the United States earlier than expected, please notify the HIO so they may inform USCIS of the change. There is no automatically defined grace period associated with the O-1 visa. Your status ends when you stop working for Harvard.

Coming to Harvard from another U.S. Employer

If you are leaving your current U.S. employer to come to work for Harvard and are currently in O-1 status, the HIO will need to file a petition representing the change in sponsorship to USCIS prior to your start date at Harvard University.