The O-1 extraordinary ability visa is a nonimmigrant visa reserved for people with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, education, business or athletics sector. This visa is issued to a small group of individuals that are qualified as “extraordinary” in their career and distinguished from their colleagues. Those that are successfully petitioned for by their future U.S. employer and issued an O-1 visa obtain temporary employment status in the U.S. for three years to continue to perform and enhance their distinguished abilities.
As recipients near the expiration date of their most recent validity date of their I-94 card - which also reflects the expiration date of their O-1- they may wonder whether they can reapply or extend their O-1 if they wish to continue to work under the same status in the U.S.
O-1 visa holders have the option to extend their status by one-year increments before their three year visa expires. To avoid issues, if recipients choose to file for an extension, it is highly recommended to apply for an extension 6 months before the expiration date of the status, due to long processing times. Keep in mind that it is not required to leave the U.S. before (or after) your O-1 status expires if your extension is pending.
If you choose to remain in the U.S. while your extension is pending, you will have a 240 day extension from the expiration date of your current O-1, meaning that you can continue to work beyond the current O-1 expiration date as long as there have been no changes to your job duties or original petition. To reduce the risk of not receiving your O-1 renewal approval within the 240 days from the expiration date, upgrading your O-1 renewal to premium processing is also suggested.
Once your extension of status has been granted, it is not required to travel outside of the U.S. in order to “activate” your O-1 approval. Your new I-94 expiration date is attached to the bottom of your I-797 Approval Notice. However, if you choose to travel outside of the U.S. while your extension is pending or near the expiration date of your I-94 - you will need to apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad before your one year O-1 extension status is “activated” and thus approved for you to re enter into the U.S.
Keep in mind that O-1 extensions are only valid for recipients who choose to work in the same position stated in their original O-1 petition and with their sponsoring employer. If they want to accept an employment outside of that stated in their original petition they may need to refile for a new O-1 petition or amend their current O-1 to reflect those changes. These changes may be as minimal as changes in location, salary or job duties.